Now’s the time to give Medicare plans the once-over

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published October 30, 2019

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METRO DETROIT — Now through Dec. 7 is the only time that Medicare beneficiaries can change their prescription drug plans.

Knowledgeable and unbiased volunteers stand ready to offer one-on-one sessions to those covered on Medicare to determine if they are paying too much for their prescription drug plans.

“The one-on-one sessions are 45 minutes and free of charge,” explained Julie Edgar, a communications specialist for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a nonprofit group that connects seniors and adults with disabilities in southeast Michigan to support services.

“A counselor will look at everything. It could be that the plan they have is right where they need to stay,” said Shari Smith, the manager of the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program for the Area Agency on Aging 1-B.

She stressed that it’s important to check your prescription drug plan every year.

“People are finding that the Medicare Advantage plans are going up more than expected. The good news is that we can compare plans. If we can find a lower price plan, we can save them a lot of money.

“People don’t realize there could be a big savings or small savings,” Smith said. “We call it a benefits checkup. It’s one of the biggest mistakes, not checking every year.”

The counselors enter all of the medications that the Medicare recipient takes into the Plan Finder database to see if a different plan would limit out-of-pocket costs.

“If your meds are covered and the price is good, keep what you’ve got. If not, we can help you find a plan that covers it,” Smith  said, adding that Plan Finder is a brand-new tool this year.

For example, Smith said, one beneficiary discovered they could save $10,000 a year by switching plans, and another discovered a savings of $150 a year by switching pharmacies.

She noted that last year, counselors helped Medicare beneficiaries save over $2.5 million in the six-county region the organization serves: Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Monroe counties.

Smith said that at a recent community counseling event held in White Lake, half of the people didn’t want to switch their prescription plans.

“They walked out knowing they are on the right plan,” she said. “We don’t sell any products. We lay all the options out on the table.”

Appointments are required and can be made by calling (800) 803-7174 to schedule an appointment at any of the following meetings:

• 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Fraser Senior Center, 34935 Hidden Pine Drive.

• 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Clinton Township Senior Center, 40730 Romeo Plank Road.

• 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 20 and 26 at the Harrison Township Public Library, 38255 L’Anse Creuse St.

• 10 a.m.-4 p.m.  Nov. 1 at Birmingham NEXT, 2121 Midvale St. in Birmingham.

• 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 6 and 7 at the Bloomfield Township Senior Center, 4315 Andover Road.

• 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield.

• 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Madison Heights Senior Center, 29448 John R Road.

The Medicare medicaid Assistance Program is supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service. Phone consultations are also available. Representatives are available to answer Medicare and Medicaid questions at (800) 803-7174. Leave detailed information, but not your Medicare number.