Archive for Friday, November 28, 2008

Seniors face increasing Medicare premiums

Part D plan counseling now available

In this 2008 file photo, Sally Brandt, left, a volunteer with the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas, helps Glenda Brenton with Medicare Part D enrollment paperwork at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt.

In this 2008 file photo, Sally Brandt, left, a volunteer with the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas, helps Glenda Brenton with Medicare Part D enrollment paperwork at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt.

November 28, 2008


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Premiums for Medicare prescription plans are going up — some as much as 84 percent, according to the Kansas Department on Aging.

Humana, one of the most popular plans in Douglas County, is raising its premium from $20.90 per month to $38.50, an 84 percent increase.

Those higher premiums are driving senior citizens to shop for a better plan, and for many it’s their first shopping excursion since enrolling in the Medicare Part D program three years ago.

“I just want to make sure the plan that I have is still the best one available,” said Glenda Brenton, 68, who was waiting to go over her Medicare plan Monday afternoon with a trained volunteer at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt.

Under the Community CCRX plan, Brenton is facing a 25 percent increase in her monthly premium and a 7 percent increase in her deductible.

After sitting down with Sally Brandt, a volunteer with the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) program, she left with three other drug plan options that could save her between $48 and $228 a year. The premiums and deductibles differed on each option, and Brenton planned to go over them with her pharmacist before making a decision.

“I am glad I did it,” she said. “You just don’t know what the other companies are offering.”

And there’s plenty of options — 48 in fact, with little time for shopping. The enrollment period ends Dec. 31, but seniors are encouraged to enroll by Dec. 15 to ensure a smooth transition.

SHICK volunteers, such as Brandt, are available to help wade through the complicated process. They are available Monday mornings through the end of the year and Wednesday afternoons through Dec. 10.

Seniors just need to bring their Medicare card and a list of prescriptions. Low-income seniors are encouraged to bring an income statement because additional financial help could be available.

Ashley Schemm, community services program assistant for Douglas County Senior Services, added that shopping is smart because the coverage of drugs also can change from year to year. She recently helped a woman whose drug was dropped under the plan she was enrolled in.

“If she would have stayed in that plan, she would have been paying $239 a month for a drug that wasn’t covered,” Schemm said.

And for those who don’t have any drug coverage and are not enrolled in a Medicare prescription plan, you might want to consider it if you are eligible. That’s because you will pay a penalty if you decide to join later.

Marlene Ebeling, 71, of Lawrence, learned that lesson the hard way.

“I hadn’t taken any medication until just recently and so I really didn’t find a need for it,” Ebeling said. “Then, I had some very expensive eye drops for my eyes and things like that and I thought, ‘Eeeww, I need some help on this.’ So I thought I had better get into a plan.”

Because Ebeling waited 36 months to enroll in a Medicare plan, approximately $10 will be tacked on to her premium each month for the rest of the time that she is enrolled in a plan. If she waits another year, the penalty will be even steeper.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said. “I wish somebody would have told me.”

Julie Brookhart, public affairs specialist for the Kansas City office of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said it works just like other insurance programs.

“You don’t take out auto insurance after you’ve had a car wreck. When your house burns down, that’s not when you take out fire insurance,” she said. “You have to be covered and pay into a system.”

She added, “It’s a strong message to say that if you aren’t taking the coverage because you don’t currently take any prescriptions or very few. It’s worth it to choose one of those least expensive plans that at least cover the prescription that you are taking or the least expensive plan overall as far as monthly premium goes, so that you don’t eventually have to pay that penalty.”


Sharon Aikins 9 years, 6 months ago

I am not yet 65 and my monthly pharmacy bill is over $500. Fortunately I am in a study for disabled people that pays for most of my prescriptions or with only a $3.00 copay. When this study is over, I will be among the uninsured for a few years because I can't afford the health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, approximately $20,000 a year out of pocket due to my age and health issues. Now it seems that reaching medicare age has no guarantees. Plus I will receive very little SS, with a big chunk of that taken for Medicare Part B. Then I will need gap and prescription plans on top of the Medicare. I find all this a bit scary and can only hope my health doesn't worsen because I won't be able to visit a doctor. Recently I visited a nurse practioner in my doctor's practice and the bill was over $100 because a healthy chunk of that went to the doctor who never even saw me. Where does it end?

Confrontation 9 years, 6 months ago

Don't forget that the wealthy don't care about whether or not you have health insurance. They can afford the best, you can't, and they love it!

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 9 years, 6 months ago

If you are receiving social security disability you get medicare i think it's 2 years after you start receiving it. Once you are eligible take parts a (free) b & d. If you dont take them immiedately when they are offered you will have to pay a penalty the rest of your life. I know, I didn't take them right away, and did not know about the penalty. If you are not on social security disability, find a good lawyer (Parmele is on TV a lot) and get on it. It certainly sounds as if you are eligible. You don't have to pay the lawyer up front, they take a percentage of the initial payment. It is backdated to the day you file when you do get it. Thank you, Lynn

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