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Unhappy with your Medicare Part D plan? You can switch

attend one of these events

October 14, 2006|by Katrina Eversole

As most seniors know by now, Medicare has another benefit - prescription drug coverage, known as Medicare Part D. Washington County's 20,000-plus Medicare eligible individuals were enrolled in some type of prescription drug plan by the end of the initial open enrollment period, which ended May 15.

Whether they had Rx coverage through an employer group, the VA, Tricare for Life, the federal government, or did the research and decided to sign up for a Medicare Rx plan, 70 percent of the Medicare population in Washington County had some sort of drug coverage.

Medicare' Part D's annual open enrollment period begins on Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 31 of this year, and every year subsequently. This will be the time for those individuals who are not happy with their current selection of a Medicare Part D drug plan to switch plans. Mid-October is when new plans will begin marketing and plans changes will be announced (premium and formulary changes).

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The Washington County Commission on Aging has scheduled enrollment events throughout the county to enable seniors and/or their family members to sit down in front of a computer, with a volunteer on a one-to-one basis and search the Medicare Web site for a new or better plan. If a person decides to switch plans during annual open enrollment, effective coverage for the newly-chosen Rx plan begins on Jan. 1, 2007.

Anyone desiring to review their plan should come to an enrollment event listed below with their Medicare card, their current Rx drug plan membership card and a list of their prescription drugs (with exact dosages and strengths) in hand.

Things you should know:

1. If you did not sign up for a prescription drug plan through Medicare Part D during initial enrollment, you may be subject to a 1 percent per month penalty (cumulative), which will be imposed on top of the drug plan's premium. So, if you failed to make a choice before June 15 and you didn't have other creditable drug coverage, the penalty may apply.

2. Those individuals who are becoming eligible for Medicare during the year by virtue of the fact that they are turning 65 years of age, or who will receive Medicare because of a disability, will have their own "special enrollment period." There is no need to choose a plan during annual enrollment if you are not Medicare eligible at that time.

3. At any time during the year, a person who qualifies for "extra help" (financial aid for premium and co-pays of the Rx plan) through the Social Security Administration can sign up for a Medicare Part D plan (with a proof of "subsidy" letter). If you have not applied for extra help, go to the Social Security Administration office on Maryland Avenue as soon as possible.

4. Individuals who are carrying employer group health coverage that is "creditable" are exempt from signing up for a Medicare Part D plan during annual enrollment period. They should have a letter stating that their coverage is "as good as or better than Medicare Part D." If your employer decides to terminate your Rx coverage, you will have a guaranteed period of time to choose a Medicare Part D plan, regardless of whether or not it is during annual enrollment period.

There are five enrollment events listed here for Washington County Medicare beneficiaries. Other events will be held in December, with times and dates to be announced.

Please do not call the Washington County Commission on Aging about whether you should switch plans or not. Plan to attend one of the scheduled enrollment events.

Bring your Medicare card, your current prescription Rx card and a list of your prescriptions (with exact dosages and strengths). We will counsel you there and show you options that are available.

Katrina Eversole is the Washington County Commission on Aging's Senior Health Insurance Program Manager.




Medicare Part D Enrollment events In Washington County

In November, events will be held at each location listed from 9:30 a.m. until noon and from 1:30 p.m. until 4 p.m., unless otherwise noted.

Other events are planned for December and times, dates and locations will be announced as soon as possible.

· Wednesday, Nov. 15, Washington County Free Library.

· Friday, Nov. 17, Valley Mall at the Hagerstown Community College computer lab, from 9 a.m. until noon and 1:30 to 3 p.m. only.

· Monday, Nov. 20, Washington County Commission on Aging.

· Wednesday, Nov. 22, Washington County Library.

· Tuesday, Nov. 28, Washington County Commission on Aging.

- The Washington County Free Library's address is 100 S. Potomac St. Workshops will be held in the second floor computer lab. There is free parking. Check at front desk for elevator access

- The HCC computer lab is at the rear of Valley Mall near JCPenney under the Hagerstown Community College canopy.

- The Washington County Commission on Aging is at 140 W. Franklin St., fourth floor. There is elevator access. Parking is available in the Christ's Reformed Church lot on the left side of median (spaces 48-82.) Those with a disability may park in the "Aspiring to Serve" lot against the brick wall facing Prospect Street.

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