A New Year Brings New Improvements to Medicare in 2011
By Donald Berwick, M.D., Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
The new year always brings new changes and improvements. And this year is no exception thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
Starting on January 1, people with Medicare began see improvements to their coverage to help make sure they get the very best care from the doctors of their choice.
From free preventive care and wellness visits to drug discounts for people in the Medicare Part D coverage gap known as the “donut hole,” people with Medicare will receive more benefits. New initiatives to increase payments for primary care doctors and to better coordinate care will help Medicare work better for seniors and people with disabilities.
And as of this week, over 3 million seniors have received their donut-hole rebate check, a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate checks are being mailed to eligible beneficiaries across the country.
Here is a new video message from HHS Secretary Sebelius outlining the new Medicare benefits, or continue reading below for more details:
Here are some of the new benefits people on Medicare should look out for:
Original Medicare will no longer have out-of-pocket costs for the “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam as of January 1, 2011 and, for the first time since the Medicare program was created in 1965, Original Medicare will cover an annual wellness visit with a participating doctor, also at no cost. This will allow Medicare beneficiaries who have been enrolled in Medicare for more than 12 months to meet with their doctors once a year to develop and update a personalized prevention plan as their needs change over time.
In addition to these annual wellness visits, most people with Medicare will be able to receive many critical preventive services for free, including certain cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
People with Medicare with high prescription drug costs will receive 50 percent discounts for covered brand-name drugs in the Medicare Part D coverage gap known as the “donut hole.” In addition, in 2011 Medicare will begin paying 7% of the price for generic drugs during the coverage gap. Following the 3 million rebate checks, these discounts are the next step in how the Affordable Care Act will reduce prescription drug costs for beneficiaries in the donut hole each year until it is closed in 2020.
Qualifying doctors and other health care professionals who provide primary care to people on Medicare will get a 10 percent bonus for primary care services. This will help ensure that those primary care providers can continue to be there for Medicare patients.
To learn more about the “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam and the annual wellness visit, search for participating doctors in their area, and find other helpful information, contact a trained customer service representative toll-free at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or visit www.medicare.gov.