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CONNECT TO | Policy & Legislation
May 2011

Lieutenant Governor Taylor and OSHIIP salute Ohio seniors during National Older Americans Month
"Connecting the Community" as OSHIIP volunteers share information about Medicare

The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) reaches out to seniors throughout the year, but makes a concerted effort during the month of May, observed nationally as Older Americans Month. This year's theme, "Connecting the Community," fits well with the ongoing efforts of the Department of Insurance's OSHIIP program, as department staff and OSHIIP volunteers work with communities to share information about Medicare.

OSHIIP

Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor encourages any seniors with questions about Medicare and their health insurance to contact the department's OSHIIP program. "The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program is a great resource to help seniors understand often confusing Medicare benefits," Taylor said. "As more Ohioans reach the Medicare eligibility age of 65, this program allows them to get answers to questions about the program that may initially appear daunting."

OSHIIP has been the state's lead educational program for Medicare information and counseling since 1991. You can contact the Medicare experts at the Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1578, and also learn about OSHIIP's many statewide outreach events at www.insurance.ohio.gov. Additional information about Medicare is available at www.medicare.gov and by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

During Older Americans Month, OSHIIP is informing seniors about Medicare changes in 2011:

  • New Medicare Open Enrollment Period - The annual open enrollment period starts on Oct. 15 and continues through Dec. 7, which is several weeks earlier than previous years. The new permanent dates help ensure that beneficiaries are not making critical decisions about their coverage during the heart of the busy holiday season. Beneficiaries also are provided an extra week and a half to make their decisions and will have their new coverage cards in hand by early January. Just as in years past, this period provides people on Medicare an opportunity to decide how they receive their coverage. Options include: Original Medicare paired with a Med-Sup plan or Part D prescription drug plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan, which can include comprehensive benefits such as prescription drug coverage and dental.
  • Discounts Added to Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage - Some beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans face a gap in coverage referred to as the "doughnut hole." This is the portion of a beneficiary's annual drug expenditures when they may be responsible for the costs of all medications. In 2011, beneficiaries who enter the "doughnut hole" (when drug spending reaches $2,840) will get a 50 percent discount on Medicare-covered brand name drugs and a seven percent discount on Medicare-covered generic prescriptions. The "doughnut hole" ends when your out-of-pocket expenses and those paid by the plan total $4,550. The plan then pays 95 percent of your drug costs for the rest of the year. The process starts again Jan. 1. The gap will be reduced in phases and eventually closed in 2020.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans - Medicare Advantage plans cannot charge you more than traditional Medicare for chemotherapy, dialysis, skilled nursing care, and other services deemed appropriate. Medicare Advantage plans must offer the benefits provided by Medicare and often offer additional benefits.
  • Free Preventive Services - If you have Medicare, you qualify for a new annual wellness exam and many preventive services for free. There are no Medicare Part B deductibles or co-payments for the following screenings (if certain coverage criteria apply): bone mass measurement; cervical cancer, including Pap smear tests and pelvic exams; cholesterol; cardiovascular; colorectal cancer; flu, pneumonia and hepatitis B shots; HIV; mammograms; medical nutrition therapy; and prostate cancer antigen.
  • Financial Assistance Programs Available - Help paying for Medicare's Part B (medical coverage) premium, up to $115.40 per month, is available to beneficiaries who meet certain income and resources requirements. There is also an "Extra Help" program for certain beneficiaries to help pay for costs associated with Medicare's Part D prescription drug coverage. This program can save a qualifying beneficiary an average of $3,900 yearly on prescription drug costs. Call 1-800-772-1213 or contact OSHIIP for details and enrollment assistance.

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Policy & Legislation

House budget bill unveiled
The House version of the biennial budget bill (HB 153) was released at the end of April. Among more than 1,000 amendments, the 3,490-page bill increases PASSPORT funding by $5 million in FY12 and $10 million in FY13, expanding the opportunities for seniors to stay in their homes if they prefer.

 

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