If you are a senior, or if you are a caregiver for a senior, now is a critical time for your health benefit planning. October 15 - December 7, 2013 is the time set aside for seniors to review their Medicare Part D prescription drug plan coverage and make changes if necessary.
This once-a-year opportunity allows seniors to review any changes in costs, benefits and coverage which will take effect on January 1, 2014. Many seniors experience changes in their healthcare needs, especially their prescription medications. If seniors do not review their options for Part D plans, they can be automatically re-enrolled in a plan which may no longer be the right plan for their health needs.
Medicare beneficiaries should review their coverage options with regard to premiums, deductibles, drug costs (including coverage in the "donut-hole" coverage gap), co-payments, convenience, plan satisfaction, and preferred pharmacy networks.
Publicity over the federal Healthcare Marketplaces which are part of the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, can easily cause confusion, especially since open enrollment periods overlap. These Marketplaces offer coverage for people under the age of 65. Eligible seniors will still obtain coverage through Medicare.
O'Neill's social services department is staffed by two employees who are available to provide guidance in helping seniors make informed decisions about what each of these plans have to offer individuals, based on current medications. While personnel are limited, they attempt to assist as many seniors as possible. Seniors residing in Washington County are invited to phone the O'Neill Center to schedule an appointment with one of the knowledgeable staff members. (740-373-3914)
For the younger seniors who are not yet eligible for Medicare Part D, the O'Neill Center Prescription Assistance for Seniors (PAS) is available to persons age 55 years and older residing in Washington County, Ohio. Many pharmaceutical companies have revised their patient assistance programs and provide medication for seniors with or without traditional insurance. O'Neill's staff keeps abreast of the eligibility requirements and assists seniors in accessing these drug programs. The staff is available to complete paperwork, process refill requests and track medications. Seniors are encouraged to contact the O'Neill Center to schedule an appointment and find out if they can receive assistance with the high cost of their medications. If found eligible for PAS the senior will receive free medications.
The O'Neill Center is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation located at 333 Fourth Street, Marietta. It serves as both a multipurpose senior center and a community focal point for accessing information and services for the elderly of Washington County, Ohio. O'Neill Center is accredited by the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Funding support is received from the Older Americans Act administered by ODA through Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District Area Agency on Aging; United Way; Washington County Senior Services Levy, and others.
Additional resources to use to compare plans or find more information:
Medicare.gov 's PlanFinder or 1-800-MEDICARE ( 1-800-633-4227 )
Buckeye Hill's Hocking Valley Regional Development District, Area Agency on Aging
Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) at 800-686-1578 or online at www.insurance.ohio.gov. OSHIIP provides phone and in person consultations informational events. OSHIIP can assist people with limited income qualify for extra help to pay their Medicare prescription drug costs.
Connie Huntsmand is the executive director of The O'Neill Center in Marietta. More information is available at www.oneillcenter.com. This column appears occasionally in The Marietta Times.