New tools help ESRD patients navigate open enrollment

On October 15, ESRD patients entered the Medicare open enrollment period, but this year, they have a new option. Patients were granted access to Medicare Advantage plans with the passage of a new law. This option has raised questions in the community about the differences between Medicare and Medicare Advantage, inevitably leading patients to determine the best coverage option for their circumstance.

So, what’s the difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage? To put it simply, Medicare.gov describes original Medicare as including Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). If patients need drug coverage, they are required to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan, also known as a prescription drug plan. Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage, bundle the aforementioned plans and may include extra benefits like vision and dental care that aren’t covered under original Medicare.

To help patients understand the specific differences between their plan options, Dialysis Patient Citizens launched a new tool, Dialysis Plan Choice, in collaboration with Consumers’ Checkbook. Dialysis Plan Choice provides real-time, easy to understand information that’s tailored to the patient’s location. In minutes, patients have access to information about the doctors included in their network, the medications covered in their formulary and any additional benefits that may be available.

“For many dialysis patients, this year marks the first time they will be eligible to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans thanks to the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016,” said DPC Board President Andrew Conkling in a recent release. “Since this is new territory for many dialysis patients, we wanted to provide them with a way to more easily understand what plans are available to them, which costs are associated with those plans and most importantly, which plans will include their care providers. This way, all patients can make an informed decision about what plans are best for themselves and their families.”

At the Northwest Kidney Council, we believe all patients should be informed of their plan options. Visit www.DialysisPlanChoice.org for more information as you make your decision before open enrollment ends on December 7.