Head to the Internet if You Want to Figure Out Medicare

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Here’s another great reason for why older adults should get comfortable using the Internet: figuring out Medicare. The federal prescription drug coverage began on November 15 for the year 2007. And next year, the selection of the now infamous “Part D” coverage will be even broader than it was this year.

 It would be unwise for you to sign up for the same package as last year, because Washington is warning that most plans are being tweaked. Thus, they recommend that all seniors do some research in order to make the best decision for their situation — and that they remember the cutoff date stands at December 31.

 It’s time to compare plans, read the fine print, and make sure you leave yourself in the best position possible for coverage. The news — good, or not so good, depending on one’s computer skills — is that the government has set up new online tools that will help Medicare users wade through the information and get to what they want to know quickly. By surfing the Web to their site, you can compare plans side by side on the screen, and really hone your research down to what is important to you.

 Start at www.medicare.gov, which is the plan’s main page. There is a list of drugs available through the drug plan and you can simply enter the state in which you live and input the drugs you are currently taking. The site will direct you to the most appropriate plans and even helpfully suggest generic versions of any more expensive medications you might be taking.

 If you hit the link “Compare Health Plans and Medigap Policies in Your Area,” you can see whether or not the Medicare plan is better for you than plans being offered from private insurers. Another link lets you compare the drug plan, all the options it comes with, and information on the up-to-date plan. All of it is succinctly laid out under the “Medicare and You 2007” section, while another link lists a host of tips for lowering your health care costs.

 Just keep your wits about you as you traverse the Web and don’t let the amount of material out there seem daunting. Do one thing at a time and take as much time as you need. Now, that being said, there are a few other places you can direct your mouse. One is www.mymedicare.gov, which is a personal tool where you can keep your prescription information, figure out where your claims have gone, search for detailed benefits information, and check out the price of drugs.

 If it’s insurance programs run by the state that you are after, head to www.medicare.gov/contacts/static/allStateContacts.asp where you can find a full list. Many of these programs (colloquially known as SHIPs) can give you personal counseling that is free of bias. In any event, the information you need in order to make an easy insurance choice is right there on your computer screen, just waiting to be found.

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