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5500 Preparer's Manual for 2012 Plan Years

5500 Preparer's Manual for 2012 Plan Years
The premier resource in the field of Form 5500 preparation, 5500 Preparer's Manual will help you handle the required annual Form 5500 filings for both pension benefits and welfare benefit plans.

CCH® BENEFITS — 09/27/11

Medicare Open Enrollment For 2012 Begins October 15; Medicare Advantage Premiums Fall, Enrollment Projected To Rise

from Spencer’s Benefits Reports: On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will be 4% lower in 2012 than in 2011, and plans project enrollment to increase by 10%, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced. Of those with Medicare, 99.7% continue to have access to a Medicare Advantage plan, and benefits remain consistent with those offered in 2011. This follows an earlier announcement that average prescription drug plan premiums will remain virtually unchanged in 2012.

“Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare is stronger than ever,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will go down next year and seniors will enjoy more free benefits and cheaper prescription drugs.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was able to use the authority provided by the ACA to protect beneficiaries from significant increases in costs or cuts in benefits in 2012, leading to average premium declines for the second year in a row: 2012 premiums are projected to be 11.5% lower than 2010 premiums.

In 2012, all beneficiaries will have access to Medicare-covered preventive services without paying a copayment or deductible, including an annual wellness visit with their physicians. As provided by the ACA, beneficiaries who reach the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage donut hole will receive deep discounts on brand name drugs and expanded coverage for generic drugs.

This year, Medicare’s annual open enrollment starts on October 15 and lasts for seven weeks to give beneficiaries enough time to review and make changes to their coverage. As a result, however, beneficiaries will need to make their elections for next year’s Medicare coverage by December 7 rather than the usual December 31. The new open enrollment period will better ensure that individuals have their membership cards in hand and receive uninterrupted health care coverage on Jan. 1, 2012, the CMS said.

CMS is encouraging beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans to review their current health and drug plan coverage for any changes their plans may be making for 2012 before the annual open enrollment period begins on October 15. By late September, beneficiaries should receive their 2012 Medicare & You handbook as well as a notice from their current plan that describes any changes from 2011 to 2012.

For the first time, in 2012, the CMS will provide financial rewards to those Medicare Advantage plans with high quality scores, under the CMS’ “Five-Star” rating methodology. The CMS also will allow “Five-Star” Medicare Advantage and Part D plans to continuously market and enroll beneficiaries throughout the year, as an extra incentive for high quality performance.

“Plans that do a better job serving the needs of their Medicare members should be rewarded and all plans should be encouraged to improve their performance,” said Jonathan Blum, CMS deputy administrator and director of the CMS.

Over the next several months, the CMS will work with beneficiary advocates, state health insurance assistance programs, and beneficiaries to ensure that people are well equipped to make decisions about health coverage that will best meet their needs in 2012. Only 1% of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in plans that will not be available next year, and those enrollees will receive a notice of non-renewal from their plan in the next few weeks. Beneficiaries currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will revert to traditional Medicare if they do not choose a plan on their own. However, everyone will need to enroll in a Part D plan to keep their drug coverage. The CMS will enroll beneficiaries eligible for the Part D low-income subsidy in a zero-premium drug plan and those beneficiaries will be able to select a different Medicare plan throughout the year.

Starting October 1, users of the Medicare Plan Finder, available at, will be able to compare plans’ quality summary rating from the previous year, identify which drugs may or may not be on a plan’s formulary or be restricted, and compare the cost ranges for plans available in their community. Because each year plans change what they cost and what they cover, beneficiaries should review and compare the cost or benefits of 2012 Medicare health plans in their area at

For more information on this and related topics, consult the CCH Pension Plan Guide, CCH Employee Benefits Management, and Spencer's Benefits Reports.

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