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Medicare Part D enrollment nearing
Local counseling available to help seniors navigate the maze
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Open enrollment for Medicare Part D is just around the corner. Seniors’ mailboxes as well as their voicemails can become flooded with information from companies wanting them to switch. Open enrollment runs from Oct. 15—Dec. 7.

“RSVP of Central Kansas has trained SHICK counselors who are ready to help you with this process,” said Linn Hogg, RSVP of Central Kansas director. The first appointments available will be Wednesday, Oct. 23 and can be scheduled by calling her office at 620-792-1614. 

“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,” Hogg said. 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,” she said. Four are through RSVP of Central Kansas and two are with the Barton County Extension Office. 

Why should seniors check their coverage?

This all can be very confusing, Hogg said.

Medicare Part D is a public/private partnership, she said. 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,” Hogg said. 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,” she said. “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.” 

There is also extra help with Medicare drug costs available through the Social Security Administration, Hogg said. One may qualify if they have up to $18,735 in yearly income ($25,365 for a married couple).

RSVP can help with the online application for this assistance, she said. “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.”

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