Online Chat with Kristina Eversole

October 28, 2007

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, The Herald-Mail hosted a live online chat with Katrina Eversole, the Commission on Aging's Medicare insurance specialist. The following is an edited transcript of that chat.

Moderator: The Medicare Part D prescription program has been operating for a year now. Have there been any major problems with it so far?

Eversole: Actually, initial enrollment started in November 2005, and ended May 15, 2006. Then there were a few months before the first annual enrollment, which started again in November 2006. Annual enrollments are from Nov. 15 until Dec. 31 each year. There were many problems, and unbelievably, the SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Program through the Washington County Commission on Aging) office is still dealing with many issues. But they are slowly being ironed out. I would say the major problem would be the Medicare beneficiaries that were "auto-assigned," and found themselves in an unacceptable Rx plan.


Moderator: If I chose a drug plan during the last enrollment session, how can I decide now whether it's still the best one for me?

Eversole: Clearly, the best way to see if you are in the least expensive Medicare D plan is to come to one of our 10 enrollment events scheduled in November and December. A trained counselor will sit with you and enter your personal data into the Medicare Web site, and it will search the 50-plus drug plans in Maryland to see how they compare.

Moderator: I know there are Web sites available with information on Part D issues. Which have the best information?

Eversole: is where you will find the most up-to-date information, along with the plan finder tool that allows you to do the drug searches. Also, which deals with upcoming events, Medicare regulations, information on Medigap and other types of insurance. You can obtain information for your specific state and county.

Moderator: Are there sessions scheduled as there were last year to help Part D recipients re-enroll? If so, where can I get a schedule?

Eversole: There are 10 sessions scheduled through the Washington County Commission on Aging. No appointment is necessary. Items to bring would be your Medicare card and a list of your prescription drugs and dosages. Or, if it's easier, put the drug bottles in a bag.

Scheduled enrollment events will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on the following dates:

November events - Thursday, Nov. 15 - Washington County Commission on Aging (WCCOA); Tuesday, Nov. 20 - WCCOA; Tuesday, Nov. 27 - Washington County Free Library; Thursday, Nov. 29 - WCCOA.

December events - Tuesday, Dec. 4 - Library; Thursday, Dec. 6 - WCCOA; Tuesday, Dec. 11 - WCCOA; Thursday, Dec. 13 - Library; Tuesday, Dec. 18 - Library; Thursday, Dec. 20 - WCCOA.

The Washington County Free Library is at 100 S. Potomac St. in downtown Hagerstown. Enrollment events will be held in the second floor computer lab. There is free parking and you may check at the front desk for elevator access.

The Washington County Commission on Aging (301-790-0275) is at 140 W. Franklin St., on the fourth floor of the Aspiring To Serve building. There is elevator access and parking 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.

Moderator: Is this a one-person show, or do you have some help with these enrollment events?

Eversole: There's a lot that goes into preparing for a public enrollment, not knowing the numbers you'll be dealing with. There are more than 25,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Washington County, including those who are disabled. There are four sessions scheduled at the Washington County Free Library, and we thank them for opening their doors to us. Enrollments are done in the second floor computer lab and it creates a lot of excitement in an otherwise quiet library atmosphere. There are six sessions scheduled for the offices of the Commission on Aging at 140 W. Franklin St. on the fourth floor of the Aspiring to Serve Building (Beside Christ Reformed Church).

All of these sessions are on a first-come, first-serve basis, but you will have the opportunity to sit with a well-trained counselor on a one-on-one basis in front of the computer so you can see the results for yourself. The Commission on Aging feels fortunate to be at our new location due to the generosity of the County Commissioners.

Patti: Do people have to re-enroll every year?

Eversole: Plans that will be discontinuing service will send notices to their members. I know there is a lot of publicity stating that if you're happy with your plan, you need not change. But I encourage everyone to come out to one of the enrollments and take a look at the new 2008 plans because premiums have changed, co-payments have changed and formularies (a list of drugs that the plans cover) have changed. Surprisingly, this may save you lots of money.

Closing remarks: Since this is the most dramatic national change in Medicare since its inception, it has been a challenge to the health-care community. I know it has also been stressful for seniors. The Commission on Aging decided to be proactive and offer as much assistance as we could provide to simplify this otherwise complicated procedure. I hope to see many of you at our enrollment events.

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