Now’s the time for Medicare Part D comparisons

Choosing or enrolling in the best Medicare prescription drug plan can seem daunting for many seniors, but free professional assistance is available.

Gayla Ratzlaff, coordinator for the Marion County Department on Aging, has been providing the service for several years now.

?This is open enrollment for people who were in a plan last year or needing to enroll in a plan,? Ratzlaff said. ?This is also the time to see if someone?s current plan has changed.?

Open enrollment ends Dec. 7, she added.

A key reason to evaluate a current plan is because medication needs can change from year to year.

?Someone might get put on some new medications or taken off some meds during the year, so people should do the comparisons to see which plan works best for their current situation,? Ratzlaff said.

Plans change

Personal prescriptions aren?t the only variable that can change.

?Plans change from year to year, and sometimes the plan paid for medicines last year but has increased the co-pays for the new year.,? Ratzlaff said.

An example is the ?Silver Script Choice,? which has been a popular plan the past two years because of low premiums and no co-pays on many generics.

?Last year, it changed a little bit and started having co-pays with medications.,? Ratzlaff said. ?You won?t know that unless you do that comparison. Maybe you didn?t pay anything last year, but that doesn?t mean it?s true this year.?

Other help

Local pharmacies are also ready to assist seniors.

Marion Health Mart in Marion, Don?s Pharmacy in Peabody and Greenhaw Pharmacy in Hillsboro also provide comparisons, Ratz?laff said.

?They don?t charge, and a lot of times those pharmacists will send (the client) to me ,and then I will enroll them in the plan.?

Regardless of the plan, Medicare Part D only covers prescriptions.

?No over-the-counter meds, vitamins and supplements are included,? Ratzlaff said. ?Each plan has its own formulary for the generics and brand-name prescription drugs they will cover for the next year.?

Make appointment

In an effort to make the free assistance available to more people, Ratzlaff has set up shop at senior centers in Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody and at Bethesda Home in Goessel.

This service is for anyone in the county who needs a comparison done, not just seniors who frequent the senior center.

If someone wants to get a comparison, they need to bring a list of their medications, the dosage and how often they take them.

Ratzlaff said the state of Kansas offers 28 prescription drug plans. Generally, people will pick the least expensive plan that covers all their medications.

?To me, if you are living on a limited budget, it is to your advantage to do a comparison,? she said. ?It is not going to cost a person anything to do the comparison.?

Sometimes people have saved $100 to $300 a year by switching to a new plan.

?I can think of a lot better places to spend that money than on a drug plan,? Ratz?laff said.

Turning 65

People who are turning 65, but plan to remain employed, may not need a prescription drug plan if their present employer already provides one.

The employer?s prescription drug plan must have the same creditable coverage as Medicare. If it doesn?t, individuals should consider getting into a prescription drug plan for 2015.

If someone initially decides not to enroll in a drug plan and then decides later that they want one, they will pay a penalty.

?It is roughly around 33 cents a month for every month someone didn?t get into a plan when they needed to be in one,? Ratz?laff said.

For more information, or to make an appointment between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., call Ratzlaff at 620-382-3580.

The Dept. on Aging office is located inside the Marion Senior Center at 309 S. Third St., Marion.