Medicare open enrollment ends soon

Published 3:12 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

In the United States, there are approximately 10,000 prescription drugs, 37.9 million people over the age of 65, and 53 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

These overwhelming statistics can make choosing a Medicare Part D plan, or switching a plan, very confusing for elderly people.

However, Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia can help make the process easier.

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The annual enrollment period for Medicare Part D drug coverage will end on Wednesday. Therefore, Medicare beneficiaries should review the changes being made to their current plans and compare them to others to make sure their needs are still met, said Rhoda Stillman, community services educator at Senior Services.

“It’s complicated,” she said about the many plans that are available.

However, people who have Part D plans are encouraged to make sure their plans are adequate to meet their needs. Certain plans are better for people taking certain types of drugs, Stillman said. Medicare beneficiaries who have started or stopped medications this year especially need to review their plan, because their drugs could be cheaper on another plan.

Finding any way to save money, especially for people on a fixed income, is an incredible benefit, Stillman said.

“It’s mind-boggling how expensive they are,” she said.

There are four ways to review and compare plans.

4Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227, TTY 1-877-486-2048). Trained Medicare representatives are available to help you 24 hours a day.

4Visit Once there, select “Plan Choices” from the left-hand menu, select “Medicare Prescription Drug Plans,” and select “Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder.” Compare costs, coverage and more. Also, get an estimate of your out-of-pocket costs for the year.

4See the listing of plans in your Medicare & You handbook and information sent to you by your plan.

4Talk with local Medicare experts at Senior Services. For help with selecting Medicare Part D plans, call 328-4217 to make an appointment with a community services educator. The staff will be available next week on Monday, Tuesday, and until noon on Wednesday. They also will hold office hours at the Workforce Development Center, 157 N. Main St., Monday from 1 to 3 p.m.

Seniors also can talk to Senior Services about the extra-help plan, which helps seniors with lower incomes pay for their prescriptions. Thousands of seniors in the Hampton Roads area are eligible for extra help, but don’t receive it.