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posted: 11/11/2013 5:00 AM

Do your homework on Medicare plans

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Choosing a Medicare plan can be confusing, challenging and time consuming. But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services makes it easier for beneficiaries to navigate the Medicare landscape by rating the health plans.

The system, which uses more than 50 different quality measures in five categories, helps people compare Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans. A 5-star rating represents an excellent plan and a 1-star a poor performer. It's especially useful now as the Medicare annual open enrollment period approaches. This year, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, Medicare-eligible individuals can choose a Medicare plan for the first time or change their current plan for the coming year.

Here are four considerations to look at when choosing a Medicare plan: 1. Review all of your plan options. 2. Decide what benefits you want based on your health care needs. Do you require a certain type of specialty care? Do you want to keep a favorite doctor? 3. Determine which plans you can afford. Don't just consider the plan with the lowest monthly premium. Find out if a plan requires a co-payment or has a high annual deductible to meet before it pays any of your health care expenses. 4. Enroll in the plan that best fits your needs and budget.

Before you enroll in a Medicare plan, check the star ratings at

Timothy O'Rourke

President, senior markets in Illinois


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