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Open enrollment for Medicare Part D draws near
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 Open enrollment for Medicare Part D is just around the corner. Seniors’ mailboxes as well as their voicemails can be come flooded with information from companies wanting them to switch. 

Senior Health Insurance Counselors of Kansas (SHICK) are Medicare counselors who are trained to sit down with seniors and help them wade through the maze. They provide non-biased information to help people make an informed decision about what is best for them. In Barton County there are six trained SHICK counselors to help you with this process. Four are through RSVP of Central Kansas and two are with the Barton County Extension Office. 

Why should seniors check their coverage?

Medicare Part D is a public/private partnership. The government contracts with private insurance companies to provide this coverage and the private insurance companies agree to abide by the rules set forth in the Medicare contract. This contract provides a degree of protection for the consumer because Medicare is overseeing the entire process. 

Validated complaints against an insurance company could result in the cancellation of the Medicare contract. The contract is comprehensive including regulations on how the company can market their product to the drugs included in the formulary to the monthly premium costs, etc. These contracts can be amended yearly and this is why everyone who has a Part D insurance policy should plan to review their coverage during the open enrollment period. 

The coverage that you had in 2017 could be subject to change in 2018. 

Now I want to be clear: It may not change at all but if it does, your premium could be higher or some of your drugs might not be on the formulary of covered drugs in 2018. You need to check. 

Thankfully, Medicare has made it fairly simple to review your options. The Medicare website has several pages devoted to Medicare Part D including a link entitled “Compare Drug and Health Plans”. When you click on that link, you will be asked a series of questions about where you live, what drugs you take with exact dosages etc; you should always enter more than one pharmacy for comparison’s sake as it can make a difference in the co-pays. Follow the instructions to learn which plan is best for you. 

If you do not have a computer or anyone to help you with this process, RSVP can assist. The open enrollment period for Medicare Part D in 2017 is Oct. 15—Dec. 7. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 620-792-1614. 

There is Extra Help with Medicare Drug Costs available through the Social Security Administration. You may qualify if you have up to $18,090 in yearly income ($24,360 for a married couple) and up to $13,820 in resources ($27,600 for a married couple). RSVP can help with the online application for this Extra help. If you think you might be eligible, it is definitely worth checking out as your out-of-pocket costs can be significantly reduced through this program. 

Linn Hogg is the director of RSVP/VIA of Central Kansas. She can be reached at 620-792-1614.