Seminar to help seniors understand Medicare changes
by Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension announced a free seminar it hopes with benefit seniors impacted by Medicare prescription drug plan changes.
The course, “Unlocking the Mysteries of Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans,” will be held this Friday at the Elkin Center of Surry Community College located at 1461 N. Bridge St.
The seminar will run from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
Fall Open Enrollment is the time of year when participants can change their Medicare coverage. This can be done by joining a new Medicare Advantage plan or by joining a new stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP). Participants also can return to original Medicare with or without a stand-alone Part D plan from a Medicare Advantage plan during this time.
“Medicare plan benefits and your needs can change on an annual basis, so we provide a discussion to help families through the open enrollment period. Let’s face it, understanding a good prescription plan doesn’t have to be so complicated. That’s why we offer this free seminar,” said Extension Agent Carmen J. Long. “We hope many people use the information to make sure they get the right fit for their Medicare prescription plan according to their health needs.”
According to Long, Medicare plans change annually, the costs of a plan can go up or down, and prescription drugs can be added or dropped from the list of drugs included in old plans. Some Medicare plans change the benefits they offer or even stop offering coverage in a particular location.
For the first time in the Part D program’s history, beneficiaries will enter the “donut hole” more quickly than before.
According to federal data, 19 percent of seniors will be affected by the donut hole.
At the seminar, Long and additional experts from the extension will discuss the donut hole.
“Seniors fall into the ‘donut hole’ when spending on drugs (the combination of what the individual and the insurance company spend) reaches a predetermined threshold,” according to Long. “This year, the number is $2,970; after that point, the senior pays 50 percent (a new change this year from the Affordable Care Act) of brand-name drug costs, until individual spending exceeds $4,750.”
According to Long, the North Carolina Department of Insurance website also provides unbiased educational information and may be located at www.ncshiip.com.
The seminar is for educational purposes. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension does not place seniors into plans. Seniors are encouraged to review all of the facts before making a decision relating to which plan is best for them.
• If a person enrolls in a plan during Fall Open Enrollment, his or her coverage starts Jan. 1.
• In most cases, Fall Open Enrollment is the only time a new Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan can be selected.
• If a person has Medicare Advantage, he or she also can switch to Original Medicare. To get Medicare drug coverage, participants must join a stand-alone Part D plan at this time.
• All Medicare recipients should review Medicare Health and Drug Coverage plans.
• If participants have Original Medicare, they can receive information at the seminar that will help them understand Medicare costs and benefits for the upcoming year. If people are unsatisfied with their Original Medicare coverage, they can make changes to their coverage during Fall Open Enrollment. Changes made to coverage will take effect Jan. 1 of the next year.
• Even if participants are satisfied with current Medicare coverage, take action and look at other Medicare options in the area that may better suit individual needs in the upcoming year. For example, even if someone is satisfied with his or her current Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, they should check to see if there is another plan in the area that will offer better health and/or drug coverage at a more affordable price.
Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or email@example.com.
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