National Guard rescues victims of Hurricane Sandy in Virginia

Medicare Enrollment Period Extended for Beneficiaries Affected by Hurricane Sandy

Federal officials have extended the Medicare enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries who live in the areas hit by Hurricane Sandy. Those affected will still have an opportunity to enroll in or switch to a private medical or drug plan for next year even past the original December 7 deadline. Those affected must call Medicare's 24-hour information line,1- 800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) and a representative will be able to review available plans and complete the enrollment process over the phone. A new deadline has not been set, but Medicare officials encourage beneficiaries to make their decisions as soon as possible.

The extra time also applies to any beneficiaries who normally get help from family caregivers or others to sort through dozens of plans but who have been unable to do so this year because they live in storm-battered areas. Neither beneficiaries nor their caregivers will be required to prove they experienced storm damage.

The Department of Health & Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has provided this list of Frequently Asked Questions on Open Enrollment Issues Related to Hurricane Sandy to assist beneficiaries and their caregivers.

Q. 1. Where can I go if I need additional information about the Open Enrollment Period?
A. You can contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with any questions. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

Q. 2. What will happen to my enrollment request that I already submitted to a Medicare plan?
A. The plan you selected should contact you to let you know that you've been enrolled. If they haven't sent you a letter or called you, call the plan and ask them about your status.

Q. 3. Can I have more time to choose health or prescription drug coverage for 2013?
A. If you have been affected by Hurricane Sandy and cannot make an enrollment request by the end of Open Enrollment, you can still make an enrollment request after December 7. Just call 1-800-MEDICARE and ask for assistance.

Q. 4. Do I have to show proof that I live in an area affected by Hurricane Sandy?
A. No. The opportunity to enroll in a plan for January 1, 2013, after Open Enrollment ends on December 7 applies to all individuals who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, including those individuals who don't live in the affected area but rely on help making healthcare decisions from friends or family members who live in the affected areas.

Q.5. If I call 1-800-MEDICARE to enroll in a plan after December 7, when will my coverage start?
A. CMS will review each request on a case-by-case basis to determine what action is appropriate in each individual's situation. In most cases, you will be enrolled in your plan for the first of the month after you make the enrollment request. So, if you call 1-800-MEDICARE to enroll before December 31, 2012, your coverage will start January 1, 2013.

Top Photo by The National Guard used under Creative Commons License.

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