Upcoming Medicare changes for 2018

Mike Davis
Mike Davis is a Medicare specialist.

■ By Mike Davis / Contributed

It’s not too early to think about Medicare’s annual open enrollment period, which begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. During this period, all Medicare beneficiaries are free to select new plans.
For the next few publications, I will be focusing on open enrollment and all the coming changes for 2018. As I am licensed with all of the big insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans (Part C of Medicare) and Medicare prescription drug plans (Part D), as well as Medicare supplements, and as a senior myself on Medicare, I know just how complicated this stuff can be. My goal is to guide you through the Medicare maze and provide you with an opportunity to receive answers to your personal questions.
One of the big changes I can share with you today concerns the new Red, White and Blue card that all Medicare recipients will receive shortly. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is currently preparing new Medicare cards for all beneficiaries. The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card. CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018 and will replace all Medicare cards by April 2019.This will help combat identity theft, and help safeguard taxpayers’ dollars.
Another big change for 2018 is the coverage gap, also known as the donut hole. Most Medicare prescription plans have a temporary limit on what the Medicare plan will cover for prescription drugs. The donut hole begins once you reach your Medicare Part D plan’s initial coverage limit ($3,750 in 2018) and ends when you spend a total of $5,000 out of pocket in 2018. While in the donut hole, beneficiaries will only be required to pay 35 percent for brand drugs and 44 percent for generic.
The good news is that if things stay on schedule the donut hole will disappear in 2020. Hang in there – it’s only a few more years.
If you would like answers to your personal Medicare questions, please submit them to editor@thevalleychonicle.com and I will respond just as quick as I can.

Mike Davis is a graduate of the University of Redlands and has been an insurance agent since 1989. He is a health insurance specialist for senior citizens with Boomers Insurance Services, Inc. Reach him at 951-551-5914. Send your Medicare-related questions to editor@thevalleychronicle.com, subject line “Medicare questions.”

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