Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2007

Seniors should do Medicare prescription plan comparison

November 8, 2007

Before senior citizens begin shopping for the holidays, they might want to shop around for a better Medicare prescription plan.

If they don't, there could be a high price to pay.

A nationwide analysis suggests that consumers who stay in their current federal Medicare Part D prescription drug plans will see an average 21 percent increase in their monthly premiums in 2008. One 2007 plan that had the second highest enrollment will raise its premium 69 percent.

"The thing that I want to stress is that shopping will help everyone see or know whether they are still in the best plan," said Paula Haisch, Lawrence counselor with Senior Health Insurance Counseling of Kansas (SHICK). "I personally think people should shop every year because they do have that opportunity, and there's no restrictions that keep them from changing plans."

Seniors can make changes during the open enrollment period, which is between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31. There are about 7,000 Douglas County residents enrolled in the program. Haisch and many local pharmacists are available to help them wade through the 52 plans that are offered in Kansas.

"If they have any doubt whether they are getting the best plan for the money, then it would be to their benefit to come up and let us ... look at it," Haisch said.

Douglas County Senior Services has scheduled 13 sessions where six or seven trained volunteers will be available. Appointments also can be scheduled with Haisch at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt.

Lawrence resident Carol Johns has scheduled an appointment. She enrolled in the Medicare Part D program three years ago when it started and hasn't changed her plans -- yet.

"I have been just very pleased with what I chose, and I want to keep up with that, but it just went up, so I need to look at it," Johns said.

She is enrolled in a Humana plan and paying $11.30 a month. That plan will increase to $29.30 a month, a 159 percent increase.

"That's quite a jump," she said.

While her premium will increase, some plans' premium will decrease from $102 to $39.50, or about 158 percent.

Jeff Sigler, owner and pharmacist at Sigler Pharmacy, said most of his customers were enrolled in one of two plans. He said one of the plans will be decreasing in 2008 but the other is increasing slightly.

"As we've looked at their plans the second time around, there isn't any reason to change them," he said. "They're pretty happy with what we recommended in the first place."

Sigler suggested seeking help from someone in the health care profession. For example, he said, this summer they had a customer who had sought Medicare Part D help elsewhere. The other person had suggested a program based on a generic drug, but it was the wrong drug.

"It ended up that would not have been the best plan for them," Sigler said. "So there's a lot of factors involved."

Karen Parker, assistant bookkeeper at Round Corner Drug Store, assists customers with Medicare Part D and already has fielded several calls. She's happy to do it.

"I definitely suggest to all of our customers that every year they take some time to look at the plans," she said. "They need to see what's best for them."

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