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Take note: Medicare deadlines are earlier this year

Woman typing on computerDec. 7 is the deadline for enrolling in Medicare, the governmental health plan for seniors and some people with disabilities. "We understand it's a bit of a complicated program," Bill Corr, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said this week during his visit to Upstate.

In an interview for Health Link on Air radio, Corr explains how the Affordable Care Act has meant that preventive services no longer have co-pays, one annual wellness visit per year is provided free of charge, and the cost for brand name medications is dropping by 50 percent once a person meets a deductible. In addition, prices for the prescription drug plan remain unchanged this year, and the average Medicare premium has dropped by 4 percent. Corr says negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, and the recovery of $4 billion in Medicare fraud and abuse this year has helped improve Medicare's financial health.

"Our actuaries have told us that all of these activities, focused on reducing cost, on preventive care, holding down premiums -- have added eight years to the life of the Medicare trust fund," he says. "So we're making Medicare stronger, at the same time that we're providing the care that people need."

Quick review: Medicare A, which pays for hospital and skilled nursing care, is paid for through payroll contributions during a person's working lifetime. People who want Medicare B, which covers doctor visits and well care, pay a premium for the coverage, or they may select a private health insurance company (Medicare C, Advantage) to handle all of their Medicare coverage. Medicare D is the prescription drug plan.

Hear Bill Corr's radio interview, which airs 9 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, on FM Newsradio 106.9 / AM 570 WSYR.

Visit the Medicare website, www.medicare.gov

Learn more about Health Link on Air.