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Mississippians Can Begin Making Changes to Their Medicare Plans
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Mississippians on Medicare who want to change their current healthcare coverage or prescription drug plan can do so starting today. The open enrollment period, which runs through December 7th, is the only time each year that beneficiaries are allowed to make changes to their Medicare plans.

Nearly 500-thousand Mississippians can begin making changes to their Medicare plans. Renard Murray with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says there may be a variety reasons people may need to adjust their coverage.

"Now is the time to make a change in that plan and it could be for reasons such as services provided by that plan." says Murray. "I've got some changes in my prescription drugs, and I want to see if these new drugs are covered, and what the cost is. It could be just costs in general. There could be a number of different reasons seniors and people with Medicare want to look at their plan to make sure that going into next year the coverage they have will definitely meet their needs."

Under traditional the Medicare plans -- known as parts A and B -- beneficiaries split the cost for healthcare between themselves and the federal government 20 percent and 80 percent respectively.  For most individuals Part A is premium free. Part B requires monthly payments. Richard Courtney is an elder law attorney in Jackson.

"To pay for doctor's visits and diagnostic tests, x-rays and that sort of thing, that does have a premium associated with it." Courtney says. "It is $104.90 a month for people in the lowest bracket. The majority of Americans on Medicare have that premium."

Beneficiaries will also have to decide whether to participate in two optional plans. Medicare Part D is a prescription drug plan. Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage -- is a private, supplemental insurance plan that covers all other expenses. Juliette Cubanski is with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"An alternative is the Medicare Advantage program and this is the sort of private plan alternative to traditional Medicare where people can sign up for a private plan, typically an HMO, and they get all of their Medicare covered benefits through that private plan." Cubanski says.

Only 13 percent of Mississippians have signed up for a Medicare Advantage supplemental program.