AARP: Review Medicare options

With Medicare's open enrollment period beginning earlier this year, AARP South Dakota  is reminding all South Dakotans that this is the one time each year when all people with Medicare can make changes to their coverage.  The Medicare open enrollment period begins on Oct. 15 this year, and people with Medicare have until Dec. 7 to add, drop or change prescription drug and health care plans for 2012.  AARP South Dakota encourages all South Dakotans in Medicare to review their options each year during open enrollment.

"This year, the open enrollment period begins earlier and has been extended to seven weeks," said Sam Wilson, AARP South Dakota associate state director.  "We want to make certain that people in Medicare, especially the nearly 8,000 South Dakotans  who are turning 65 this year, are aware of the early date and use the opportunity to find the plan that best fits their needs."

People with Medicare can use the Medicare Plan Finder at to research prescription drug and health plans that will be available in 2012.  Those needing assistance from a local Medicare counselor are encouraged to contact their local SHIINE (Senior Health Insurance and Information Education) office. (

After reviewing available plans, AARP South Dakota recommends considering the following when making decisions to change coverage:

  •  Costs, including the monthly premium, the annual deductible and cost-sharing;
  •  Coverage for the doctors and pharmacies included in the plan and the prescription drugs and other services you need; and,
  •  Quality Ratings, which are provided for most Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.  These ratings are based on the quality of care and the customer service each plan provides.

AARP has a website dedicated to helping people get the information they need to make the best decisions during open enrollment.  The website,, includes guidance on the choices available to consumers during open enrollment and questions to consider when choosing a Medicare plan.

AARP has several additional resources to help people navigate open enrollment, including:

  •  The AARP Drug Savings Tool (available at allows users to select the drug they want to compare from Consumer Reports Health's database of about 500 drugs in 26 drug classes and provides consumers with "Best Buy" recommendations and a discussion sheet to help guide related conversations with their doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
  •  The AARP Doughnut Hole Calculator, available at, guides visitors through their prescription drug options using localized information about their plans and prescriptions to determine if or when they will fall into the coverage gap.  In about 15 minutes, visitors can view a graph of their out-of-pocket spending by month, look up lower cost drugs for their conditions, create a Personal Medication Record and print out personalized letters to their doctors to help start a conversation about safely switching prescriptions.
  • A comprehensive guide to Medicare prescription drug coverage found at
  •  AARP has resources on open enrollment available in Spanish, which can be found at

"You can make changes to get the health insurance benefits and drug coverage that fit you best. Or, you don't have to make any changes if you don't need or want to," Wilson added.

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