Letter to the Editor

Medicare open enrollment help

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The purpose of this letter is to remind everyone on Medicare of the upcoming open enrollment period to open or change prescription drug plans, sometimes referred to as Part D plans. Part D plans are issued on a calendar year basis, so the open enrollment period starting October 15th and ending December 7th will be to enroll in plans for the 2016 calendar year.

It is easy to sign up for a Part D plan and just keep it year after year, but unlike other types of insurance, Part D plans can and do change from year to year. Volunteers for the State of Iowa's Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) are available to help compare Part D plans and assist those on Medicare find the plan that covers their individual prescriptions at the lowest cost Last year SHIIP volunteers helped thousands of individuals on Medicare compare plans and the majority of time were able to save money by changing plans. Annually, Part D plans can change premiums, co-payments, and can change the list of drugs they will cover. The plan that was best for you in 2015 mayor may not be the most cost effective for 2016. The only place to view all of the Part D plans available to you is on Medicare.gov.

In addition, there are programs to assist Medicare recipients to get additional help with their prescription costs, based on income and resources. The application for assistance is completed with the Social Security administration, and SHIIP volunteers can assist with this application. SHIIP volunteers can also help recent retirees and individuals turning 65 to understand Medicare and the health insurance options available to them to cover doctor and hospital expenses and the approximate premium and out of pocket costs for medical services other than prescriptions.

The SHIIP volunteers, based at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, are available to assist anyone on Medicare with questions about Part D plans. We can also enter your prescriptions in the Medicare.gov site and help you compare all of the Part D plans available for 2016. If requested, we can assist in completing enrollment in a Part D plan for next year. If you do nothing, your 2015 Part D plan will carryover and be in effect for 2016, but if you can save money by enrollment in a different Part D plan for 2016, your new plan will take effect January 1, 2016 and your old plan will automatically be terminated at the same time. To meet with a SHIIP volunteer, call 712-213-8683 and Danielle will set up an appointment for you. SHIIP services are free, confidential and objective, so start that Part D review process now by calling for an appointment.