In mid-December, when Phil Friedeman tried to enroll by computer in the federal government's new prescription drug program, he found that the Web site he needed to use was down for maintenance.
"I'm not too computer-friendly anyway," the 68-year-old Lawrence man said.
Friedeman then went to the Douglas County Senior Center, 745 Vt., for help.
"I was prepared," he said. "Most people may not be aware that you need to bring all the drugs (or a list) to the computer volunteer so they can enter the names of each of those."
Friedeman is a big proponent of getting help with Medicare D through the computer with a volunteer at the Senior Center.
"Any other way would drive you nuts, with 41 plans," he said. "It would just be bonkers."
Seniors who do have a computer and Internet access can try the same process on their own by using step-by-step directions at www.medicare.gov. Or their children can try to do it for them.
Medicare Part D
More about Medicare Part D
- Customizing Your Health Plan
- Customizing Your Health Plan (pdf)
- Sebelius: ID rules could cause Kansans to lose health coverage
- Seniors find higher costs, more choices in Medicare drug plans (11-16-06)
- New round of Medicare headaches are possible (10-06-06)
- Medicaid paybacks may cost millions more (07-13-06)
- Enrollment deadline for drug program is set for Monday (06-18-06)
- Checkup shows Social Security, Medicare trust funds ailing (05-02-06)
- Agency prepares for last Medicare Part D sign-ups (04-27-06)
- Medicare Part D 'not as scary as it seems' (02-12-06)
- More about Medicare Part D
"Even if I had been able to get online that day (at home) I don't think I would have made sense of it," Friedeman said. "I would have been so frustrated just typing in all the names of the drugs. Some of the names are gargantuan."
Friedeman did have one problem. He didn't get all of the information concerning drug identification, group and BIN numbers to give to the pharmacist. A BIN number is what a pharmacist uses to identify a prescription drug plan. Friedeman had to spend about 20 minutes on the phone. He spent the time reading.
Following a recent SHICK seminar, Marcella Mann, 70, of Tonganoxie, sat down with a volunteer at a computer. She looked at the three plans recommended by the computer and decided to look at additional plans.
After about 30 minutes she left, taking print-outs of the plans and their costs home with her. She said she was going to go over the information with her family and enroll later.
"I thought it went really well," Mann said of the process.
If you can't attend the Monday SHICK seminar or meet with volunteers afterward, call 842-0543 to set up an appointment for later on Mondays or on Tuesdays.
Perry resident Melville W. Gray, 79, wrote a step-by-step procedure for getting into a drug plan - without a computer.
"The federal drug program isn't really as bad as many reports indicate," Gray said.
Medicare Part D enrollees can make changes before the May 15 deadline. Anyone enrolling after the deadline will be subject to a cost equal to 1 percent of the base premium for every month the person was eligible but not enrolled. Congress has been asked to change the late enrollment penalties because of problems that have surfaced with early enrollment.Friedeman noted that many seniors are waiting until closer to the deadline to enroll, hoping that problems will be solved.
"As someone who has really thought it through, I encourage everybody over 65 to enroll sooner rather than later, because they can't get any benefit until they do," he said.