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Medicare Choices Increase for 2008

Seniors: strut yourselves for the yearly Medicare drug and health plan media crack down on the television, in your mailbox and on the Internet.

Companies are able to start advertising the tactics Monday.

Seniors citizens in Palm Beach County will be able to choose from a whopping 129 Medicare drug and health plans for 2008 - 20 more than last year. In Martin County, the number of Medicare health plans has jumped to 39 from 23. In St. Lucie County, it has increased to 44 from 39.

Even though the figure of stand-alone Medicare drug plans on hand statewide next year will be 58 -- one more than 2007 - the figure of Medicare HMOs, PPOs and fee-for-service strategy has mature noticeably.

Seniors can begin enrolling Nov. 15 for the reporting to get effect Jan. 1. The limit to register in the drug-only plans is Dec. 31. The limit to record in the health plans is March 31.

"No one in a Medicare private health plan is free of charge from the complex task of having to review all of the plan options all over again for 2008," said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a consumer group. "A private Medicare health plan that worked well for someone this year could be much more costly and offer different health benefits next year."

The lowest monthly premium for stand-alone drug plans in 2008 will be $12.10, which will be accessible by Health Net. In 2007, the lowest monthly premium was $10.20, offered by WellCare. The highest premium among Medicare drug plans for 2008 is $97.50, a plan offered by EnvisionRx.

One of the principal changes in Palm Beach County is the count of Aetna Inc.'s new Medicare health plans. It will have eight health plans from which seniors can decide. Today's Options, a plan run by Heritage Health Systems Inc., will offer 12 Medicare health plans. Humana Inc. will offer eight.

At least 20 of the Medicare health plans will not charge a monthly premium. However, seniors who opt for a PPO or fee-for-service plan, where they can choose from a greater number of doctors, will pay premiums as high as $266 a month.



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