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What to know about Medicare in the new year
The New Year brings improvements and other changes to Medicare. Here’s a brief rundown of what to expect in 2014.
The best news is that there are no changes in Medicare’s Part B premium and deductible. The standard premium for the part of Medicare that covers your doctor visits and outpatient hospital care will stay the same -- $104.90 per month. Over the past three years, the premium has remained unchanged or turned out lower than first projected.
A small number of people with Medicare -- about 4 percent -- pay surcharges on their Part B premiums because their annual incomes exceed $85,000. They, too, will see no increase in their premiums for physician visits and outpatient services.
The Part B deductible for 2014 will also be the same as this past year -- $147. That’s what you pay out of pocket for your doctor appointments and outpatient care at the beginning of each year before your Medicare coverage kicks in and helps to cover costs.
You’ll get bigger price breaks on your generic drugs in the “doughnut hole.” If you have a Medicare drug plan and reach the coverage gap, you’ll receive bigger discounts on your generic prescriptions -- 28 percent in 2014, compared with 21 percent this past year. You’ll also continue to get about 53 percent off your brand-name drugs.
The price breaks are adding up. More than 233,100 Texans with Medicare have saved $201.9 million on their prescriptions in the coverage gap this past year -- an average of $866 per person. The discounts will continue to grow until the doughnut hole disappears in 2020.
If you’re dissatisfied with your Medicare Advantage plan, you can quit it beginning Jan. 1. If you’re unhappy with your private Medicare Advantage health plan, an annual “disenrollment” period allows you to return to the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14. You can also pick a drug plan to go with your new coverage.
A word of caution here: There are a few things you can’t do during the six-week disenrollment period. You can’t switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another. Nor can you switch from the traditional Medicare program to an Advantage plan. Most people will need to wait until the annual enrollment period in the fall to make either of those changes. If you’re not old enough yet for Medicare but need health care coverage, help is here.
If you have Medicare, you don’t need to do anything about the new Health Insurance Marketplace. But if you, a spouse or another family member are too young for Medicare and lacking insurance, this new way of buying coverage may be for you.
Health plans sold through the Marketplace will provide you with affordable and comprehensive coverage. Insurers can no longer deny you coverage, or charge you more, because of a pre-existing medical condition. Enrollment continues until March 31.
You can shop and sign up online at healthcare.gov or by phone at 1-800-318-2596. You can also sit down with a trained counselor and enroll. For a list of counselors in your community, visit localhelp.healthcare.gov or call the 1-800 customer service number.
People with incomes up to $45,960 for individuals and $94,200 for families of four may qualify for tax credits to reduce their premiums. Some applicants may also qualify for help with deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket costs.
You now have access to your personal health information through Medicare’s “blue button.” Having ready access to your Medicare claims data gives you a better understanding of your health information and greater control. It also makes it easier to share your medical history with your doctors, caregivers or anyone else you choose.
Visit mymedicare.gov to use Medicare’s “blue button” today. You can download 12 to 36 months of claims information for Medicare Parts A and B and 12 months of claims information for Part D to your computer or mobile device.
As I said, this is just a quick look at Medicare’s more noteworthy changes. The Medicare and You 2014 handbook you recently received in the mail has a complete summary. If you’d like, you can also visit medicare.gov and download a free digital version of the handbook to your e-reader.
Make the most of your Medicare benefits by staying informed.
Bob Moos is the public affairs specialist with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Region 6.
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Section A: General News Archives
American Legion ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Annexation for fire services will be on November ballot (May 25, 2016)
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts to honor fallen heroes (May 25, 2016)
Camino Real plans Open House events (May 25, 2016)
Chief Hull resigns from Poth police (May 25, 2016)
County sets sights on new tax (May 25, 2016)
Court Update (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: Grim choices have put America in a grave situation (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: On the other side of politics in a world of digital divide (May 25, 2016)
Fire, EMS services — Who’s got you covered? (May 25, 2016)
It’s okay to take control (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Free ride over hard work … a no-brainer! (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Housing Foundation expresses gratitude (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Mainstream media ‘brainwashing’ Hispanic/Latino voters (May 25, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Memorial Hospital District (May 25, 2016)
Memorial Day office closures (May 25, 2016)
One viewpoint: Making Floresville marketable with recreational facilities (May 25, 2016)
Parish plans Cemetery Ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Police arrest man in case of burned body (May 25, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 25, 2016)
Police ticket six for violating cell phone ban (May 25, 2016)
Post 539 service (May 25, 2016)
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Poth High School students earn awards (May 25, 2016)
Severe storms shred Wilson County (May 25, 2016)
SSCA ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Teacher salaries, student lunch prices on the rise (May 25, 2016)
Tejano music to fill the air during Labor Day event (May 25, 2016)
Turner: New businesses coming to Floresville (May 25, 2016)
Berger earns Ph.D. from Columbia University (May 18, 2016)
Brahma Happenings (May 18, 2016)
Burning body spurs murder investigation (May 18, 2016)
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Court Update (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: Narrow views promote intellectual, moral dry rot (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: The political climate in America goes from bad to worse (May 18, 2016)
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Floresville parks plan wins council approval (May 18, 2016)
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Grass fires on the rise (May 18, 2016)
Letter: An open letter to Congress (May 18, 2016)
Letter: Illegal immigration: Who will laugh last? (May 18, 2016)
Letter: What Hispanic vote? (May 18, 2016)
Lone Star Greys to meet (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia City Council (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Poth ISD (May 18, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 18, 2016)
Police recover one of two stolen trucks (May 18, 2016)
Register for free watercolor lesson (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale campus to get upgrade soon (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale City Council approves electronic payment processing (May 18, 2016)
TAMU-SA matches student scholarships (May 18, 2016)
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Court Update (May 11, 2016)
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Cub Scout Roundup (May 11, 2016)
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Editor: Trump’s candidacy sets in motion affliction in future elections (May 11, 2016)
Editorial: The voters have spoken — well, some of them have! (May 11, 2016)
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Lack of super majority vote keeps Clean Water Rule flowing (May 11, 2016)
Leetter: The government is a terrible investor (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Injection well site is near river, creeks (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Stop being negative (May 11, 2016)
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Meeting Watch: La Vernia ISD (May 11, 2016)
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Miss LV Pageant, Bluebonnet Parade, graduation fill La Vernia calendar (May 11, 2016)
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Personalized brick for Veterans Memorial (May 11, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 11, 2016)
Precinct 3 primary runoff is May 24 (May 11, 2016)
Rangers to honor Lorenz (May 11, 2016)
Rohrs takes over Floresville athletics (May 11, 2016)
Tanneberger qualifies for Executive Club membership (May 11, 2016)
Voters respond: One bond passes, another fails (May 11, 2016)
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Accident injures two drivers (May 4, 2016)
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Behind the lens: Solitary stillness (May 4, 2016)
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Cemetery association meeting (May 4, 2016)
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Court Update (May 4, 2016)
Crime Stoppers aids police anonymously (May 4, 2016)
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Editorial: Overbearing city council threatens boards’ independence (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Taking personal responsibility will bring possibilities (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Trump is the same old song with one more verse (May 4, 2016)
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Hall of Fame inductees: Joe Kotwig, Malcolm and Beverly Talley (May 4, 2016)
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Medicaid, CHIP application assistance (May 4, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Commissioners Court (May 4, 2016)
National Day of Prayer May 5 (May 4, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 4, 2016)
Ramirez promoted to colonel (May 4, 2016)
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