FRIDAY, Oct. 12 (HealthDay News) -- The open enrollment period for seniors choosing their 2013 Medicare plan starts Monday, and U.S. health officials say there are more high-quality health plans to choose from this time around.
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"In 2013, people with Medicare will have access to a wide range of plan choices, including more four- and five-star plans than ever before," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement released Friday.
This year, there will be 127 four- and five-star plans offered, vs. 106 such plans offered last year. There will also be an increase in four- and five-star prescription drug plans for seniors on Medicare, with 26 offered in 2013 compared with 13 such plans in 2012, the statement noted.
During the open enrollment period, which ends Dec. 7, seniors can use the star ratings system to guide them in choosing their health and drug plan options, health officials said. Medicare plans are given an overall rating on a one- to five-star scale, with five stars being the highest rating.
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Medicare can alert beneficiaries who have been enrolled in lower-quality plans (three stars or fewer) and let them know how they can change to a higher-rated plan, HHS officials added. Five-star plans are also being rewarded by being allowed to recruit and enroll beneficiaries throughout the year. In 2012, thousands of people with Medicare joined a higher-rated plan, health officials noted.
New benefits have also been added to Medicare because of the Affordable Care Act. The Medicare prescription drug coverage gap, also known as the "donut hole," is being phased out. Next year, people with Medicare who reach the "donut hole" will receive about 53 percent off the cost of brand-name drugs and 21 percent off the cost of generic drugs, the statement said.
-- HealthDay staff
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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, news release, Oct. 12, 2012