medicare_2013The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released the figures for Medicare costs in 2013, including new premiums, deductibles, and co-payments. You can find the information about Parts A, B, C, and D in the 2013 Medicare Costs PDF available on the Medicare website. Slightly higher premiums are not the only changes in 2013. Medicare is now covering more preventive care services and reducing the co-pay for prescription drugs to help with the prescription drug coverage gap. Complete information about both new and old benefits is available in the official U.S. government Medicare handbook.  Here’s a brief overview of some of this year’s changes.

Preventive care services which are covered for the first time this year under Medicare Part B are: alcohol misuse counseling, cardiovascular disease behavior therapy, depression screenings, obesity screening and counseling, and sexually transmitted infections screening and counseling. You can find out more about these services by clicking on the links above, or learn more about all the preventive care services covered under Medicare by following this link to the Preventive & Screening Services page.

The reduction in prescription drug co-pay is good news for Medicare beneficiaries who may fall into the prescription drug coverage gap. This gap, commonly known as the “Medicare donut hole,” previously left some beneficiaries with the burden of paying 100% of their prescription costs for a period of time. But starting in 2013, Medicare still covers a percentage of drug costs even after the beneficiary falls into the donut hole. Now the beneficiary is responsible for 47.5% of the plan’s cost for brand-name drugs and 79% of the plan’s cost for generic drugs while in the donut hole. After he or she spends $4,750 out-of-pocket on prescriptions, the beneficiary reaches “catastrophic coverage” and exits the donut hole, after which point Medicare covers the majority of prescription drug costs.

It can be tough to understand how Medicare works, what benefits you may be eligible for based on your unique circumstances, and what choices you should make when presented with a variety of coverage options. Seek help from an elder law professional early on to maximize your benefits and minimize confusion and stress.