Medicare plan choice is complex, but help is available
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Sunday, November 04, 2012
11/04/12 at 1:56 AM
Seniors have about a month to sign up for a Medicare drug plan and should make sure they have the plan that best suits them, even if they're happy with what they have, said Cindy Loftin, State Health Insurance Assistance Program coordinator for LIFE Senior Services.
LIFE offers one-on-one counseling for beneficiaries during the Medicare Part D open enrollment period, which ends Dec. 7.
Last year, LIFE scheduled more than 900 appointments and expects more this year.
So far, LIFE's 16 volunteers have helped 261 people. Of those, 149 have changed plans. All told, they've helped beneficiaries save about $283,000. They're on pace to beat last year, when they helped people save nearly $850,000.
"It's just the most fulfilling work imaginable because almost everybody saves money," Loftin said.
Mike Harrison had an appointment recently to choose a plan for himself and his mother. He's only 43 but is disabled and on Medicare.
"It's just one less thing (to do)," he said. "You can kind of get it taken care of for the year."
He saved more than $1,300 by switching plans this year.
Harrison has gone to LIFE for help in choosing a plan for at least two years. He said it helps him be sure he's choosing the best option.
"I just can't say enough good things about it," he said.
Loftin said the premium and deduction amounts shouldn't necessarily be the driving factors behind which plan a person chooses. It's important to see what drugs are covered, what their co-pays are and whether there are any restrictions, such as a requirement for prior authorization.
The drugs covered by a plan, as well as their cost, can change from year to year, so it's important for people to make sure the plan they're on is still the best for them in 2013, Loftin said.
"Even if you're happy, you need to check your plan."
There are six new plans available in Oklahoma this year, Loftin said.
Unlike with other insurance, it's rare that a husband and wife should be on the same plan. If they are, they should check that they're each getting the best deal, she said.
"We've been doing this for a lot of years so it's easy for us, but it might be daunting for others," Loftin said.
Those who are just now qualifying for Medicare but don't have any prescriptions should still consider enrolling in a plan because there is a penalty for joining after being first eligible, she said.
Those seeking help should schedule an appointment and bring their Medicare card as well as a list of medications they are taking, including dosage and frequency. Appointments last about 30 minutes a person.
People can also call LIFE for help in choosing a plan or navigating the website used to enroll.
To schedule an appointment to receive one-on-one help choosing a Medicare Part D plan, call LIFE Senior Services at 918-664-9000, extension 273.
Original Print Headline: Help offered on Medicare choice
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Counselor LeRoy Fore (left) helps Mike Harrison with his Medicare Part D plan on Wednesday at LIFE Senior Services. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World