To apply for Medicare as an Arkansas resident, you must be age 65 or older and eligible for or entitled to Social Security retirement benefits. About 550,000 people, or 18 percent of the state’s residents receive health benefits through Medicare. The majority of beneficiaries are 65 to 69 years of age. They receive Medicare services through various means including hospitals on both short-stay and outpatient bases, hospices, home health programs, and skilled nursing facilities.
Just over 75,000 Arkansas residents are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan, which provides all Part A and Part B Medicare benefits. About 62,000 Arkansas residents are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Drug Plan (MA-PD). In the state, you can choose from a variety of plan types including Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). If you are looking for a high degree of flexibility and choice, Arkansas also offers Private Fee for Service (PFFS) plans, which allow you to see any doctor who will accept your plan’s terms. Arkansas providers include Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Coventry, Windsor, Humana, and others. The average quality rating for Medicare Advantage Plans in Arkansas is 2.76.
Medigap Policies provide supplemental insurance to help you pay for holes, or “gaps” that may exist in your Original Medicare coverage such as deductibles or copayments. Medigap policies do not cover long term care. In Arkansas, Medigap insurers cannot increase premium prices as an individual ages; however, many of these policies have other restrictions, limitations, or high out-of-pocket costs, so carefully review all of your coverage options every year.
Which Medicare Advantage plans are available to you depends on where you live within the state. Find the specifics on available plans by visiting www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan. After inputting your information, you’ll be presented with a list of plan options with details such as monthly premium, deductibles and coinsurance, doctor choice, drug coverage, and overall plan rating. You can also compare plans and sort your results by various factors like lowest monthly premium or drug restrictions. When choosing a plan, it’s also a good idea to check into costs you may incur by receiving out-of-network services, if applicable. Open enrollment for MA plans begins October 15 and ends on December 7 of 2012.
Medigap Policies are widely available in Arkansas. Find specific policies by visiting www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/medigap-home. Open enrollment for Medigap policies is the six-month period after you are both age 65 or older and enrolled in Part B. During this period, a Medicare supplement insurer cannot deny you a policy. Arkansas offers no open enrollment period for those who have not yet turned 65. Once you have selected a plan or policy, be sure to reevaluate your options regularly, as premium costs, copayments, and deductibles may change annually.
If you have specific questions or would simply like some one-on-one assistance, contact the Arkansas Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIP). This program provides free health benefits counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. Other helpful Arkansas organizations include the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Arkansas DHS Division of Aging and Adult Services.
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