(StatePoint)-If you have Medicare or are turning 65 soon and will be enrolling in it, you need to be aware of new and proposed changes that could impact your life.
For starters, the enrollment period is earlier this year for choosing or changing your coverage and your prescription plan.
More importantly, unless Congress acts quickly, Medicare payments to doctors will be cut by nearly 30 percent January 1. This could threaten your access to physician care, as many doctors say they will be forced to stop accepting new Medicare patients.
There are several things you can do to help make sure you continue to receive access to health care.
This year, Medicare enrollment, including any changes to your prescription plan, is earlier, running from October 15th through December 7th, and those who fail to enroll or change their plans will be forced to wait until next year.
This change was enacted to help seniors who used to wait until the end of the year and didn't have valid prescription cards each January. For more information, visit www.Medicare.gov.
Just as a huge influx of Baby Boomers is entering Medicare, access to doctors is about to become more limited.
A survey by the American Medical Association (AMA) reveals that one in five physicians overall and nearly one-third of primary care physicians say they are already forced to limit the number of Medicare patients in their practice due to the ongoing threat of cuts and inadequate reimbursement rates. An additional cut of nearly 30 percent will make this situation worse, but it does not have to occur.
Congress can vote to repeal the Medicare physician payment formula before the scheduled cut of nearly 30 percent.
Many seniors are urging Congress to repeal the formula and stop the cut. If you are interested in making your voice heard, visit the Patients` Action Network at www.patientsactionnetwork.org, where you can email Congressional leaders through the site.
You also can call them through the Network's hotline at (888) 434-6200.
"There is wide bipartisan agreement that we need to protect seniors' access to health care," says Peter W. Carmel, M.D., President of the AMA. "Seniors, as well as their family members, should contact their members of Congress and tell them to repeal the Medicare physician payment formula now."
Be sure to take advantage of new Annual Wellness Visits that Medicare has begun offering. New and established Medicare patients are entitled to these visits, designed to offer personalized prevention plan services.
At these visits, doctors typically record a patient's body mass index, blood pressure and other indicators in order to establish screening schedules for the next 5 to 10 years.
By getting more involved in your health care, you can help ensure you receive the Medicare benefits to which you are entitled.