From staff reports
DURHAM – The official deadline for most Medicare beneficiaries to review and select health and/or prescription coverage for 2013 will end at midnight on Friday.
“While the majority of beneficiaries do not review their options annually, most could save roughly a third of their drug costs by comparing and switching drug coverage,” Durham’s SeniorPharmAssist program noted in a press release Monday. “And making sure Medicare-approved health plans contract in-network with an individual’s preferred healthcare providers – including hospitals, doctors, home health agencies and others – can mean the difference between access and financial security or having to see new providers or potentially be responsible for major medical bills.”
Medicare-approved health plans are often called Medicare Advantage, replacement plans or Medicare Part C. Medicare’s stand-alone drug benefits are called Medicare Part D.
If seniors or people with disabilities want to review health and/or drug plan options via the telephone, they can call Medicare (1-800-633-4227) or the NC Department of Insurance’s Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program or SHIIP in Raleigh (1-800-443-9354). For face-to-face appointments in Durham, they can call Senior PharmAssist, the local SHIIP coordinating site, at 919-688-4772. A limited number of appointments are available, so the organization urges anyone interested to call immediately.
According to Gina Upchurch, executive director of Senior PharmAssist, the agency will see any Medicare beneficiary in Durham – regardless of age or income – because Medicare options are available to everyone and the decisions can be confusing. “Most of the people we have seen this year – and in the last few years – need help understanding their options, and when they do most will switch drug coverage for a $500-600 annual savings,” she said. “So it pays to compare.”
SeniorPharmAssist projects it will have served over 900 people this year by the Friday deadline – up from 804 last year.