What You Need to Know About Medicare Open Enrollment – Blue Shield of California | News Center

Sandy D’Elia, senior director of Medicare Sales for Blue Shield of California, explains important points in understanding Medicare and how Californians can get ready for the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP). 
What are Medicare Parts A, B, and C and who is eligible?
Generally, Medicare Parts A, B, and C are available for people age 65 or older, younger people with disabilities, and people with end- stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or transplant). 
Original Medicare has two parts, Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Alternatively, Part C (Medicare Advantage) is an “all-in-one” plan offered by private insurance companies, such as Blue Shield of California. Part C includes Part A and Part B coverage, and usually prescription drug coverage (Part D), too. Specifically:
What is the difference between a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan and a Medigap (or Medicare Supplement) plan?
While Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers many healthcare expenses, it doesn’t cover everything so there can be significant out-of-pocket costs. It’s important to remember that there is no out-of-pocket maximum with Original Medicare. 
You have two options to help with costs not covered by Original Medicare.  
What if I am turning 65 and now eligible for Medicare? When can I enroll?
Your initial enrollment period begins three months prior to your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after your birthday month. If you miss your initial enrollment period, you likely will have to enroll during either a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) (if you qualify) or during the next Annual Election Period (AEP).
What is Annual Election Period (AEP) and how long do I have to make a decision?
The Annual Election Period (AEP) is the open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries to sign up for Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug plans. The AEP runs from October 15 to December 7 every year. This period is your opportunity to enroll in a new plan or switch or make changes to your existing plan, unless you qualify for a Special Election Period (SEP) that allows you to enroll outside of the normal AEP timeframe. You have until 11:59 p.m. on December 7 of each year to make your selection. Selections made during the AEP are effective as of January 1st of the following year.
What makes Blue Shield of California Medicare plans a good value?
Blue Shield of California offers a complete portfolio of Medicare products to suit your health care needs and budget.  
In addition to the standard benefits, our Medicare Advantage plans* offer supplemental benefits such as monthly allowances for over-the-counter items, transportation services to plan-approved health related locations, and a Personal Emergency Response System. Healthy Grocery, a Special Supplemental Benefit for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI)**, is also available to eligible members. You can visit www.bsca.com/medicare to explore plan options. 
Can I choose my own doctor if I join a Blue Shield plan?
When joining one of our Medicare Advantage Plans, you will have the opportunity to choose from a diverse and broad network of providers who contract with Blue Shield to coordinate and provide covered services to plan members.  
When selecting one of our Medicare Supplement plans, you are able to choose any physician or hospital anywhere in the US as long as they accept Medicare. Blue Shield Medicare Supplement plans are available to residents in all 58 counties in California***.
Are prescription drugs covered and is there a premium?
When enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers Part D prescription coverage, you have pharmacy benefits embedded in the plan. Depending on the plan, there may or may not be a plan premium or deductible. 
When selecting a Medicare Supplement plan, you must purchase a separate Part D prescription drug plan (PDP). These Part D plans range in premiums and coverage options. Blue Shield of California offers Part D plans and can help you select one that meets your needs. 
How can I get ready for AEP?
There are several steps you can take to get ready for the upcoming AEP, which runs from October 15 to December 7.
For more information on Medicare options, you can visit www.medicare.gov. If you would like to learn more about Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement plans, and/or prescription drug plans offered by Blue Shield of California, please visit www.bsca.com/medicare or call (800) 488-8000 [TTY: 711], 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. seven days a week from October 1st through March 31st****
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*Benefits vary by plan and by service area. 
**The benefits mentioned are part of special supplemental benefits available in select plans. Not all plan members will qualify. Refer to the Evidence of Coverage for details and eligibility requirements.
***All Blue Shield of California Medicare Supplement plans are offered statewide, with the exception of Plan G Inspire, which is offered in select Northern California counties only.
**** From April 1st through September 30th, hours of operation are 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
*****Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and www.cms.gov
 
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If you are a member of the media, please call our media hotline at (510)-607-2359 or send us an email.
If you are not a member of the media but have a question about Blue Shield of California, please contact us or call the number on the back of your membership card.
© Blue Shield of California 1999-#CURRENTYEAR. All rights reserved. Blue Shield of California is an independent member of the Blue Shield Association. Health insurance products are offered by Blue Shield of California Life & Health Insurance Company. Health plans are offered by Blue Shield of California.

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