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Mark Your Calendar - Open Enrollment for Medicare Prescription Drug and Health Plans Starts Earlier

OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Kaiser Permanente encourages Medicare beneficiaries to review their current health plan ratings carefully and take advantage of an earlier Medicare open enrollment start date. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a new date this year for changing plans. This year, open enrollment begins October 15 and runs through December 7, 2011. For beneficiaries changing or joining a new plan, the changes will take affect on January 1, 2012.

It's important for beneficiaries to review their plan during the next three weeks to be ready when the open enrollment period starts in October. What's convenient about this year's date change is that the enrollment period will not interfere with the year end holiday season.Here are some key dates and steps to take at a glance:September 2011

Review your current plan. The 2012 Medicare & You handbook will be mailed to Medicare beneficiaries between September 15 and September 30. Request an electronic version of the book through your account or by contacting Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE. October 1 – 15

Use this time to learn about your plan's star quality rating. Medicare ratings will be released on October 6. Compare your plan's ratings with other available options to see if there is a better choice for you.October 15 – December 7, 2011

You can change your Medicare health and prescription drug coverage for 2012.January 1, 2012

New coverage begins if you switched or joined a plan. Cost and coverage changes also begin if you kept your existing plan.Medicare Star RatingsMedicare plans are rated on scores of one to five stars, with five stars representing the highest quality plan. The Medicare Star Quality Rating system, developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is a simple, objective way to find and select the best Medicare health plan in a specific area. It compares how well Medicare health plans perform across five categories that include staying healthy, managing chronic conditions, and customer service.

"The Medicare Star Quality Ratings provide a convenient source of valuable information that helps seniors make educated choices when selecting a Medicare plan," says Herman Weil, senior vice president, Kaiser Permanente Medicare programs. "We recommend that seniors use this rating system to ensure that their plan meets CMS' high standards."

Plan performance summary star ratings are assessed each year and may change from one year to the next. Consumers can visit and learn about Medicare plans using the Medicare Plan Finder, and can view the "overall plan rating" to see the highest rated plans in their area.

Beneficiaries should also be aware that beginning December 8, 2011, Medicare rules allow most beneficiaries to enroll in 5-Star Medicare Advantage plans throughout the year. This means that beneficiaries do not have to wait until the Fall open enrollment period next year if they want to change their plan and enroll in a 5 Star plan, if one is available in their area.

To assist seniors in choosing the Medicare plan that is right for them, below is a quick overview of the Medicare basics.

Original Medicare is offered to most Americans over 65 and those who are disabled, and provides coverage for Parts A and B. Generally you pay a deductible and coinsurance. You may purchase a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan. Many beneficiaries also purchase a Medicare supplemental insurance policy to fill gaps in Original Medicare.

A Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) is a health plan run by private companies with Medicare contracts. These plans are often called "Part C," and combine Parts A, B, and usually Part D.  With such a plan, you don't need a supplemental policy. You may pay a monthly premium and copayments for covered services.

Medicare A,B,Cs (and D)Part A is for hospital insurance, Part B is for medical insurance, usually doctor office services. Part D is Medicare prescription drug coverage, which is either offered through a Medicare Advantage plan or purchased as a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan to accompany Original Medicare coverage.

For more information about Medicare go to: or Beneficiaries can also go to www.Medicare.Gov and download the "2012 Medicare & You" handbook to learn more.

About Kaiser PermanenteKaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.8 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to:

For more information, contact:
Diana Yee, 510-271-6671,


SOURCE Kaiser Permanente
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