Medicare recipients should compare drug plans annually to avoid ‘significant’ cost increases

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If you automatically renew your Medicare drug plan without researching all of the options, you could face significant increases in your 2018 costs, says the State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

“If subscribers to these plans do not review their coverage annually, they may be faced with higher monthly premiums, changes in the drugs covered under their plan’s formulary, or increased co-payments for the plan’s various classes of drugs,” SHIAP said in a release. “A drug can be completely eliminated from a plan’s coverage, resulting in potentially significant, unanticipated costs, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year.”

And if it seems a daunting task to review and compare all of the Medicare drug plans on your own at medicare.gov, Kentucky offers one-on-one help through its State Health Insurance Assistance Program during open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 — and it’s free.

The release notes that while most Medicare recipients know that they are required to purchase a drug plan, called Medicare Part D, many don’t know that they can change their plan yearly during open enrollment. In 2016, only 14 percent of the state’s Medicare recipients used this free service.

The state assistance program provides trained, local volunteers to help Kentuckians choose the best Medicare drug plan to suit their needs, whether it be a Medicare drug plans, Medicare supplements (Medigap) or Medicare Advantage plans. They typically work out of senior centers, libraries and other public spaces

The volunteers can determine which plans cover which drugs and at what cost in 2018, says the release. They can also estimate a recipients monthly costs and pinpoint when they will enter and leave the so-called “donut hole” under any given plan. They are also trained to help Kentuckians who qualify with applications for programs that help with drug and other medical costs.

Recipients who use this service are asked to bring their original red, white and blue Medicare cards; all of their prescriptions in their original bottles; any government letters or correspondence pertaining to their health care coverage; and any letters from private employers regarding their transition to Medicare.

The program’s hotline can be reached at 877-293-7447.

Below are the regional agencies that offer this service and contact numbers to help you connect with a trained volunteer:

• Barren River Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson and Warren counties. Contact Kentucky Legal Aid 866-452-9243.

• Big Sandy Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, Martin and Pike counties. Call 800-737-2723.

• Bluegrass Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Anderson, Boyle, Bourbon, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Harris counties. Contact Legal Aid of the Bluegrass 866-516-3051.

• Buffalo Trace Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Bracken, Fleming, Lewis, Mason and Robertson counties. Call 877-564-7084.

• Cumberland Valley Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Rockcastle and Whitley counties. Call (800)795-7654.

• FIVCO Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Greenup and Lawrence counties. Contact Legal Aid of the Bluegrass 866-516-3051.

• Gateway Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Bath, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan and Rowan counties. Call 800-862-0526.

• Green River Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union and Webster counties. Call 800-928-9093.

• KIPDA Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties. Call 888-737-3363.

• Kentucky River Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Breathitt, Knott, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Owsley, Perry and Wolfe counties. Call 800-928-5723.

• Lake Cumberland Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Green, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, Taylor and Wayne counties. Call 800-264-7093.

• Lincoln Trail Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, Larue, Marion, Meade, Nelson and Washington counties. Call 800-264-0393.

• Northern Kentucky Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen and Pendleton counties. Contact Legal Aid of the Bluegrass 8666516-3051.

• Pennyrile Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Caldwell, Crittenden, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, Muhlenberg, Todd, Trigg and Christian counties. Call 800-264-0643.

• Purchase Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living, serving Ballard, Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Marshall and McCracken counties. Call 877-352-5183.

From Kentucky Health News

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