Medicare Advises Recipients To Shop Around

By Tom Wilemon

The Aging Commission of the Mid-South has scheduled workshops to help Medicare recipients choose a prescription drug plan. The enrollment period begins Saturday and ends Dec. 31.

Nov. 15: Morning View Baptist Church
1626 Carnegie St.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nov. 17: Bickford Community Center
233 Henry Ave.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nov. 18 and 19: Aging Commission of the Mid-South
2670 Union Ave. Extended
Suite 1000
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Nov. 20: Gaisman East Senior Center
4221 Macon Road
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dec. 1: Douglas Community Center
1616 Ash St.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dec. 2: Goodwill Homes
163 West Raines Road
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dec. 3 and 4: Tipton County Commission on Aging
Covington, Tenn.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dec. 5: Mustard Seed Inc.
653 Mississippi Blvd.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dec. 8: Orange Mound Senior Center
2590 Park Ave.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dec. 9: Lauderdale County Commission on Aging
Halls, Tenn.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 10: Fayette County Commission on Aging
Somerville, Tenn.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 11: Galloway Senior Center
Galloway, Tenn.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 12: Central Library
3030 Poplar Ave.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dec. 15: Arlington Senior Center
Arlington, Tenn.
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dec. 16: Aging Commission of the Mid-South
2670 Union Ave. Ext.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Dec. 17: Central Library
3030 Poplar Ave.
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Medicare officials gave volunteers tips Monday on how to choose drug benefits and get the word out to an estimated 5,485 people in Shelby County who may qualify for additional prescription benefits.

Saturday is the first day that Medicare recipients can begin choosing a prescription drug plan. Officials are urging recipients to shop around even if they are already enrolled in a plan. They recommend that recipients narrow the options to three, then consult with their physician, pharmacist or another trusted adviser about which plan to choose.

“Typically, we see that people get on a plan and they don’t change,” said Gil Silva, the deputy regional administrator for the Atlanta office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

However, prescriptions, drug costs and co-pays do change. Silva said when he asked his mother about her plan she said she had no reason to change until he reminded her she was taking an additional medication.

Medicare recipients have until Dec. 31 to make their choice. They can do it online at www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE for help. Family caregivers can go to www.medicare.gov/caregivers for assistance.

Help needed

The task can be daunting, especially for senior citizens who aren’t comfortable using the Internet.

The Aging Commission of the Mid-South Inc. has scheduled 18 assistance sessions throughout the Memphis area. The first workshop is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Morning View Baptist Church.

“We’re asking that the family member or the senior to bring all their medicines in a sack and their Medicare card,” said Larry Turner, outreach coordinator for the agency. “The reason why we’re not asking for just a list is a lot of times they don’t put all the information down there for prescriptions. It works better for us to bring the medicines. We ask for the older seniors to definitely bring a family member.”

In Tennessee, there are as many as 99 options to choose from, ranging from stand-alone prescription benefits to special needs plans. Selecting the best provider can become even more difficult if someone takes multiple medications.

“In times past, we’ve had people with 25 prescriptions show up at our stations,” Turner said. “That’s a very lengthy, very complicated venture, but we take the time to help them understand to make that decision.”

Blanket coverage

The volunteers, who have no affiliation with insurance companies, can make the enrollment on the spot using a network of 10 laptop computers using satellite communication.

The technology makes it easier for the Aging Commission to reach out to all areas of the city.

Almost 40 people representing other volunteer organizations also attended the Monday workshop. Silva stressed the need to inform Medicare recipients about an under-used benefit that as many as 5,485 people in Shelby County may qualify for.

“There’s something really important I’m going to emphasize today,” Gilva said. “We have what we call the extra benefit. The extra benefit is available for individuals who meet certain income and resource limits. Unfortunately, a lot of people qualify for this, but they don’t know it. So we’re trying to get the word out so they can understand that there is extra help available to pay up to 95 percent of the cost of drugs.”

Applications for this benefit have to be made through the Social Security Administration. To see if you or a loved one qualifies, go to a Social Security office and inquire about form SSA 1020, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.