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/Kaiser Permanente ) - Did you know Medicare has a rating system that evaluates health plans based on dozens of quality measures and patient experiences? Very few plans receive the top Medicare rating. Out of 563 Medicare Advantage plans for 2013, only 11 plans with prescription drug benefits earned the top five-star rating. Six of those 11 were Kaiser Permanente plans.
"We are a top plan because we focus on our patients' health," said Jed Weissberg, senior vice president for Hospitals, Quality and Care Delivery at Kaiser Permanente. "We help our patients to exercise, eat well, maintain a healthy weight and get regular check-ups. Walking, for example, can have remarkable therapeutic value -- cutting the rate of new cases of diabetes by half or more."
Part of staying healthy is having a health plan that covers all of your medical needs. For seniors selecting a Medicare plan, this means finding one that has the right doctor and provides the care, treatment and pharmacy benefits you need. To help Medicare-eligible beneficiaries select a high-quality plan, Kaiser Permanente offers four tips.
1. Know your health plan's star quality rating. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services assign an overall star rating to each Medicare plan for how well it performs. The Medicare ratings range from one star (lowest rating) to five stars (highest rating). The system rates plans on preventive care, managing chronic conditions, member satisfaction, customer service and pharmacy care.
2. Use the Medicare ratings
to find a quality plan. The highest-rated plans feature well-coordinated, patient-centered care. When seniors suffer from chronic illness or require hospitalization, high-quality plans initiate best practices and treatment to deliver excellent follow-up care.
3. Look for customer service and responsiveness to your needs. The very best health care plans give patients support systems that include making online appointments, getting lab results electronically and providing secure email to their doctors.
4. Seniors can choose 5-star excellence almost any time of year through Medicare's Special Enrollment Period. Seniors who become eligible for Medicare as they turn 65 should enroll during the three-month period prior to and after their 65th birthday. After this initial enrollment period, they may be subject to higher premiums or late penalties if there has been a gap in their coverage. To find out the latest 2013 ratings, visit www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan
. Plan performance summary star ratings are assessed each year by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and may change from one year to the next.