Medicare Part D News

by Mary Loftis, Extension Associate

The articles below are Mary Loftis's Medicare Part D columns. For more information on any of these topics or activities contact Nebraska Extension in Burt County at 402-374-2929, Extension Associate Mary Loftis at mloftis2@unl.edu, or your local Nebraska Extension office.


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October 13, 2017

Harvest/Medicare Season 

          Harvest is in full swing – at least between rain showers! Whether harvest means combining soybeans or corn or picking apples it’s much like the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Season. Instead of picking a crop, Medicare recipients are picking a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan that will fit their needs best in 2018.

          From October 15-December 7 Medicare recipients can either go online on a computer to the website https://www.medicare.gov  (make sure it’s medicare.gov or you won’t have the official government site for comparing plans.) Once you’re on the opening page you can click on “Find Health and Drug Plans”. Then scroll down a little so you can go through the personalized search if you’ve already got a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Doing the personalized search will bring your current plan to the top of the page after you’ve entered your prescriptions, strengths and doses and selected your preferred pharmacies. When your current plan comes up you can click the little box next to the name and you can compare it to any other plan that is less expensive listed below.

          After comparing plans, if your current plan isn’t the least expensive for you next year, then just hit the ENROLL button by the least expensive plan and you’ll go to an enrollment page. Fill it all out, get the Enrollment Confirmation page and you’re done for the year!

          If computers aren’t your thing and insurance makes you nervous then make a phone call for an appointment to get help from a trained Senior Health Insurance Information Program counselor (SHIIP). We are trained and updated twice a year by the Nebraska Department of Insurance to help you get the plan you need for the least cost and to help you understand your options.

          SHIIP Counselors will be offering free confidential comparison sessions across the state in the next few weeks. You can call the Nebraska Extension offices in Burt County (402-374-2929); Dodge County (402-727-2775) or Washington County (402-426-9455) to make an appointment near you. You may also call the Nebraska SHIIP number at 800-234-7119 for other location and date options.

          Picking the right Medicare Prescription Drug or Medicare Advantage Plan that fits your current needs can save you money or at least provide peace of mind if your current plan is still the least expensive for next year.

          After working with several individuals who are new to Medicare and needed a drug plan for the rest of this year, we found the least expensive plan for their current needs. Then we compared it to what that same plan would cost them next year. In both cases, changing their prescription drug plan for 2018 would save them over $450 in one case and $1300 in another! It does pay to compare!

          Don’t get so caught up in harvest season that you forget to do your own seasonal picking – of the least expensive Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan. I hope to see you at one of the many Medicare Open Enrollment sessions being held in the area. 

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September 22, 2017

Schedule Your Medicare Check-up

If you are a Medicare recipient, you won’t want to miss out on scheduling your Medicare Open Enrollment Check-up. The annual time to compare your current Medicare Prescription Plan and/or Medicare Advantage Plan for next year is October 15-December 7.

As a trained Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) counselor I have set up 20 Medicare Open Enrollment Events in Burt, Dodge and Washington Counties this fall. Of course I’m not the only SHIIP Counselor in the area, I get help at these events from Linda Bisanz of Tekamah; Deb Hawkins of Craig; Judy Knoell of Arlington and Rick Scofield of Omaha.

Last year we compared plans for 473 individuals saving a total of $302,000.00 for an average savings of $638/person. Of course not everyone saw that kind of savings as some individuals just learned their current prescription drug plan would be their most economical choice, but they still had the peace of mind knowing that. Others had hundreds or even thousands of dollars in savings by changing Medicare prescription drug plans. The only way you’ll know if you can save money is by comparing during Medicare Open Enrollment. This Open Enrollment opportunity only applies to the Medicare Prescription Drug Plans or Medicare Advantage Plans. Your regular Medicare A & B cannot be changed during this time, nor can your Medicare Supplement (Medigap) coverage.

You can compare your Medicare prescription plan by going to the website: www.//medicare.govand working through the questions and adding your list of prescriptions, dosage strength and frequency of use. Then you put in what pharmacies you want to use. Some of the pharmacies are “preferred pharmacies” by certain drug plans and others are “standard retail pharmacies.” You can compare two pharmacies at a time. When you get to the Drug Plan Comparison List you can compare up to three plans by checking the box in front of the plan and pressing the “Compare Plans” button.

If you would like help doing this – or even checking your efforts on the website, we are very happy to do that. Just call the Nebraska Extension Office in Burt (402-374-2929), Dodge (402-727-2775) or Washington (402-426-9455) and make an appointment for one of our Open Enrollment event days. If you bring a printout of your medicare.gov drug plan comparisons, we can easily check what you’ve done. Then we can walk you through the comparison and enrollment part of the program so you understand your options and can help you get enrolled in a different plan if needed.

Don’t waste your money at the drug store or on a prescription plan that isn’t right for you next year. Feel confident you have the best coverage for the least price by comparing Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and/or Medicare Advantage Plans every year during Medicare Open Enrollment.

The following is a list of Medicare Open Enrollment Events I’ve planned in Burt, Dodge and Washington Counties. Anyone is welcome to make an appointment for any of the sessions.

Burt County Sites:

Monday – October 23                            Chatt Senior Center, Tekamah 10-7:00

Thursday – October 26                          Chatt Senior Center, Tekamah 10-7:00

Monday – October 30                            Lyons Library 9-Noon   

Monday – October 30                            Oakland Library 1:30-5:00

Tuesday – October 31                           Decatur Sears Center 9:00-2:00

Wednesday – November 1                     Lyons Library 9-Noon

Monday – November 6                          Chatt Senior Center, Tekamah 10-7:00

Tuesday – November 7                         Craig Fire Hall, Craig 9:00-4:00

Thursday – November 9                        Decatur Sears Center 10:00-2:00

Monday – November 13                        Lyons Library 9-Noon

Monday – November 13                        Oakland Library 1:30-5:00

Tuesday – November 14                        Oakland Library, Oakland 8:30 – 5:00

Monday – November 20                        Chatt Senior Center, Tekamah 10-7:00

   

Washington County Sites:

Wednesday – October 25                      Arlington Sr. Center, Arlington 9-1:00

Thursday – November 2                        Washington Co. Ext. Blair 9:00-3:00

Friday – November 3                             Washington Co. Ext. Blair 9:00-3:00

    

Dodge County Sites:

Friday –October 27                                North Bend Library 10:00-5:00

Wednesday – November 8                     Hooper Senior Center 9:00-2:00

Wednesday – November 15                   Dodge County Ext. Fremont 9:00-3:00

Thursday – November 16                      Dodge County Ext. Fremont 9:00-3:00

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September 14, 2017 

Medicare Season

          Medicare open enrollment season is nearly upon us. This is important for all current Medicare beneficiaries as it means they have from October 15-December 7 each year to make sure the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan they have will be the best one for them next year. Individuals wanting to schedule a confidential comparison of their prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage Plan can call Nebraska Extension offices in Burt (402-374-2929), Dodge (402-727-2775) and Washington (402-426-9455Counties to make an appointment.

Individuals turning 65 in the next few months are encouraged to attend the “New to Medicare Workshop” which will be held on September 26 at the Dodge County Extension Office in Fremont beginning at 7:00 p.m. I’m presenting this workshop as I take off my 4-H hat and put on my SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) counselor hat for the next few months.

          During the New to Medicare workshop we will discuss the different parts of Medicare, Medicare Supplements, Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, and how current employment might impact your Medicare decisions.

          Medicare, like all insurance is an extremely individual decision and there will be plenty of time to ask questions during and after the workshop. Absolutely nothing will be sold at this workshop, only information will be shared to help individuals understand the Medicare program so they can make the best decisions for their situations. 

Please call Nebraska Extension in Dodge 402-727-2775) or Burt County (402-373-2929) by noonSeptember 26 to sign up for the New to Medicare Workshop so enough materials are available for everyone attending.

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September 20, 2017

Check Your Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage 

          It’s time to make plans to attend a Medicare Open Enrollment session near you to make sure your prescriptions are available at the least cost to you in January next year.

The annual Medicare Open Enrollment period starts October 15 and runs through December 7 each year. Medicare Advantage Plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans should be compared each year so you don’t spend more than you need to for your health coverage.

Research shows that people with Medicare prescription drug coverage could lower their costs by comparing plans annually to see if there is a plan that would cover your medications with fewer restrictions and/or lower prices.

Last year, Volunteers Assisting Seniors (VAS) helped over 2,000 people review their coverage during Medicare’s annual Open Enrollment period in the Omaha area. The people who reviewed their coverage and switched to a less expensive plan averaged a $720 savings in their prescription drug costs for 2017. 

Even higher savings averages were reported through Open Enrollment Events in Burt, Dodge and Washington Counties coordinated through Nebraska Extension SHIIP volunteers with 473 individuals comparing their plans with a total savings of over $302,000! These savings varied from $0 to $19,000 for the year if they hadn’t changed plans.

Don’t be complacent about your Medicare and prescription coverage. Comparing plans could at best save you substantial money and at least give you peace of mind you’ve got the best plan for your needs in 2018.

Please remember that the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period pertains to Part D and Advantage plans only. Medigap supplement policies are not subject to an annual open enrollment period.

   

Event Dates and Locations 

Nebraska Extension in Burt, Dodge and Washington Counties will be scheduling appointments at various locations throughout the area October 23 - December 7 to assist people with Part D and Medicare Advantage plan reviews again this year.

   

Schedule your appointment now 

To review 2018 Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plans in your area contact Nebraska Extension in Burt County at 402-374-2929, in Dodge County at 402-727-2775 or in Washington County at 402-426-9455. Anyone from any county may attend any enrollment event regardless where you live. You may also call the Nebraska SHIIP number at 800-234-7119 for more information.

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September 13, 2017

New to Medicare Workshop:

Celebrate your upcoming 65th birthday by attending a “New to Medicare!” class.

If you or a family member will be turning 65 in the near future, it’s a milestone birthday and a cause for celebration. It can also be a cause for concern and confusion.

Once you know the basics you can handle the rest, or at least will know who to call for help.

Join the Medicare Basics informational meeting on Tuesday, September 26 at the Dodge County Extension Office at 1206 West 23rd Street, Fremont NE. 

The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. and absolutely nothing will be marketed or sold at this event. It’s a free informational meeting presented by Mary Loftis, a trained Senior Health Insurance Information Program counselor. Anyone from any county or community is welcome to take part in this program. Family members are encouraged to also attend. 

Please call Nebraska Extension in Dodge County at 402-727-2775 or in Burt County at 402-374-2929 to register so enough materials will be available for the meeting.

 

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August 31, 2017

Medicare Basics Workshop

          Sixty-Five is the magic number for Medicare eligibility, but is it magic for you?

Everyone has a different scenario in their lives. Some individuals plan to continue to work and have employer insurance, others have personal insurance and have different needs while some couples have combinations of the two. There isn’t just one correct answer for all these examples. Knowing your options is helpful when trying to decide what you need to do.

          The Medicare Basics Class, often referred to as “New to Medicare” or “Medicare ABC’s and D too” is being offeredTuesday, September 26 at 7:00 p.m. It will be held in the Nebraska Extension office in Dodge County located at1206 West 23rd Street, Fremont, NE. Anyone from any county is welcome to attend this informational meeting. If you or a spouse or parent is turning 65 in the near future or you’re over 65 and planning to retire soon, this workshop is for you.

The program will be presented by Mary Loftis, Nebraska Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) counselor. Absolutely nothing will be sold – just information presented. The SHIIP program which is part of the Nebraska Department of Insurance just wants everyone informed about their insurance options so they can make the best decisions at the right time for their own situations. 

Pre-registration is encouraged for this workshop so adequate materials will be available for all participants. Please call Nebraska Extension in Dodge County at 402-727-2775 or in Burt County at 402-374-2929 by noon the day of the program.

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June 5, 2017

New Medicare cards offer greater protection

New Medicare cards will no longer contain Social Security numbers, to combat fraud and illegal use. This will offer greater protection to more than 57.7 million Americans.

However, these changes may increase the phone calls Medicare beneficiaries receive trying to defraud recipients as unscrupulous people try to get their Medicare number (social security number) before this change takes place. We have all been warned before, but do NOT EVER give your Medicare, Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers to ANYONE who calls. They will make you believe they have all this information but are just “verifying it” with you so you can get your new card. Don’t fall for it, or you may lose your identity, benefits and money. Medicare will not call you – they already have all your information.  

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is readying a fraud prevention initiative that removes Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to help combat identity theft, and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The new cards will use a unique, randomly-assigned number called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to replace the Social Security-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) currently used on the Medicare card.

CMS will begin mailing new cards in April 2018 and will meet the congressional deadline for replacing all Medicare cards by April 2019. CMS is kicking off a multi-faceted outreach campaign to help providers get ready for the new MBI.

“We’re taking this step to protect our seniors from fraudulent use of Social Security numbers which can lead to identity theft and illegal use of Medicare benefits,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We want to be sure that Medicare beneficiaries and healthcare providers know about these changes well in advance and have the information they need to make a seamless transition.”

Providers and beneficiaries will both be able to use secure look up tools that will support quick access to MBIs when they need them. There will also be a 21-month transition period where providers will be able to use either the MBI or the HICN further easing the transition.

CMS testified recently before the U.S. House Committee on Ways & Means Subcommittee on Social Security and U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology, addressing CMS’s comprehensive plan for the removal of Social Security numbers and transition to MBIs.

Personal identity theft affects a large and growing number of seniors. People age 65 or older are increasingly the victims of this type of crime. Incidents among seniors increased to 2.6 million from 2.1 million between 2012 and 2014, according to the most current statistics from the Department of Justice. Identity theft can take not only an emotional toll on those who experience it, but also a financial one: two-thirds of all identity theft victims reported a direct financial loss. It can also disrupt lives, damage credit ratings and result in inaccuracies in medical records and costly false claims.

Work on this important initiative began many years ago, and was accelerated following passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). CMS will assign all Medicare beneficiaries a new, unique MBI number which will contain a combination of numbers and uppercase letters. Beneficiaries will be instructed to safely and securely destroy their current Medicare cards and keep the new MBI confidential. Issuance of the new MBI will not change the benefits a Medicare beneficiary receives. 

CMS is committed to a successful transition to the MBI for people with Medicare and for the health care provider community. CMS has a website dedicated to the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI) where providers can find the latest information and sign-up for newsletters.

For more information, please visit: https://www.cms.gov/medicare/ssnri/index.html

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