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Need a Medicare plan change? The time is now

Open enrollment period now to Dec. 7

Staff writer

Seniors who want to enroll in Medicare for the first time, switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, enroll in a Medicare Part D plan, or change their Medicare Advantage or Part D plan have from now until Dec. 7 to make those changes.

Help getting through the maze of deciding which plan is best is as close as Marion County Department on Aging, where director Gayla Ratzlaff said seniors can schedule appointments to go over their options with an advisor.

“Starting Oct. 22, people can call and make an appointment,” Ratzlaff said.

Ratzlaff said to call (620) 382-3580 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to schedule appointments for Marion and Goessel. She will meet with seniors in Goessel Oct. 31 and Nov. 20.

To set up an appointment at the Hillsboro Senior Center, where Ratzlaff will be Oct. 23, Nov. 8, and Nov. 29, call (620) 947-2304.

Ratzlaff will be in Peabody to help with Plan D enrollment from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 25 and Nov. 15. To set up an appointment there, call the Peabody Senior Center at (620) 983-2226.

When they come, they should bring a list of their prescriptions, dosages, and how often they take the medications, Ratzlaff said.

Additionally, Ratzlaff is available year-round to help people enroll in Social Security, Medicare, and prescription drug plans as well as answer questions about supplemental plans and Medicare Advantage plans.

Local pharmacies offer help sorting through Medicare Part D plans as well, but enrolling in the plan is up to the individual.

“We do Medicare analyses each year,” Melissa Thomson, pharmacist at Hillsboro Hometown Pharmacy, said. “We do not do enrollments. We can do a comparison and show people what the plans are, and based on the drugs they are taking right now, what plans look best. It’s customized to the person. That gives people sort of an idea what to budget for it, and what they should be expecting.”

To schedule an appointment, call (620) 947-3784.

Tracy Lanning, owner of Lanning Pharmacy in Marion, said customers can call for a Part D comparison and pharmacy staff will compare available plans and give customers the best-looking results.

To schedule an appointment, call (620) 382-2135.

“We have online booking this year,” said Steve Kuder, pharmacist with CK Pharmacy in Peabody. “Go to the website, ckpharmacies.com, and it will have a pop-up, and they can click on that to book an appointment so we can get it taken care of.”

According to the Department on Aging and Disability Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced new policies that increase flexibility and offer innovative coverage.

To qualify for a Medicare Advantage plan, seniors must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B, live in the service area of the plan, and not have end-stage renal disease.

Medicare Advantage plans’ average monthly premium is expected to decrease by $1.81 in 2019.

Seniors who are satisfied with their current plans don’t need to do anything during open enrollment, as long as their plan will remain available.

If their plan will not be offered in 2019, the insurance company will send a non-renewal notice.

Available plans and what they cover change from one year to the next, so it is important to verify that the plan remains the best option.

Between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year, seniors already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can make a change. Coverage begins the first day of the month after enrollment.

Last modified Oct. 17, 2018

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