Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 2:11 PM on Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Medicare help available

Medicare's 2012 Open Enrollment for Part D (prescription drugs) starts and ends earlier this year. You have from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 to review your current prescription coverage, compare what else is available and enroll in a different plan for 2012 if necessary. For most Medicare beneficiaries this is the only time they can change from their current plan to one that may better meet their needs.

Be on the lookout for your written "annual notice of change" letter in the U.S. mail. It will tell you what the changes to your current plan will be in pricing, drug coverage, co-payments and/or deductibles in the coming year. If everything looks fine, you can leave the plan as is. If you want to compare what you have with other options and you use a computer or have a caregiver or family member to help, go to www.medicare.gov, choose "compare drug and health plans" and enter your zip code and medications. You will see what other plans are available. Then you can either enroll on line or call the company's toll free number and speak to an agent who will take your request by phone.

The Independent Living Center has certified Medicare counselors who can assist with your Medicare options. Lori Engler works at the Soldotna office and can be reached at (907) 262-6333 and I am here in the Homer office at 235-7911. I also will be going to the Homer Senior Center on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 12:30- 1:30 p.m. and may be able to answer some of your questions then. I encourage anyone to make an appointment and come to my office at 3953 Bartlett St. where we can go online together to check plan and carrier options.

If you have a limited income and limited resources you may qualify for the federal "extra help" program. There is a brief questionnaire to determine whether you may be eligible and the application can be done online. Medicare can pay 75 percent or more of your prescription drug costs if you qualify. There are four Part D carriers in 2012 with zero monthly premium subsidized plans for beneficiaries who are on Extra Help or Medicaid.

For most beneficiaries, if they miss this window of opportunity they will have to wait until the next annual enrollment period to join or change plans. Acting on this very important issue may save a lot of money and frustration at the pharmacy in 2012.

Patti Boily

Independent Living Advocate

Independent Living Center