Barbara Harrington

Senior Writer

It’s time for a checkup for Medicare Part D.

There was a lot of confusion about the plans when they made their debut, and now a year later people need to look them over again.

An open enrollment period for Medicare Part D began on November 15 and runs through the end of the year. Coverage begins on January 1.

Joel Patterson, a pharmacist at Currie’s Pharmacy, said a short amount of time is given for people to reevaluate their plans.

“It would be my recommendation that everyone reevaluate their existing plan for next year,” Patterson said. “A lot of the plans are changing, in respect to their premiums, copays and deductibles.”

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services asks that everyone insured through a plan with Medicare Part D ask themselves questions in three key areas.

1. Cost: Will your premium and costs change in 2007?

2. Coverage: Do you need more coverage in 2007? Will the prescription drugs you take be covered by your plan in 2007?

3. Customer Service: Are you satisfied with your plan’s service?

People can go to www.medicare.gov to compare plans. They may also go to their local pharmacist for help.

Patterson said several people had come to him, telling him that they had received word their plans would be going from $64 to $82 next year. Most plans that had a $250 deductible last year, he said, are going up to $265.

“A lot of the problems that presented themselves at the beginning of the program have over time been worked out,” Patterson said. But here at the end of the year some people are still having problems. He said some people signed up to have their premium payments deducted monthly and this has not been done and now the company is coming back and wanting a whole year’s payments by December 1.

“There’s still a lot of people asking for help with Medicare or to reevaluate their plans,” Patterson said.

In one reevaluation he worked with, he said that with the person’s plan it would have cost them almost $4,600 per year for medication costs, but by looking at it and going to a different plan, that was cut down to about $2,400 per year.

Customer service, which was a big factor in the initial enrollment, is not as much of a problem now. He said most companies have been accessible since reenrollment started.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get in touch with an insurance company for someone and you either can’t reach them or they can’t help you when you do,” he said.

Even people who are satisfied with their current insurer should find out how their coverage will change next year and make sure there isn’t a better deal out there.

The Monroe County Board of Supervisors and Three Rivers Planning and Development will sponsor a day for people to get assistance with Medicare Part D. A counselor will be at the Monroe County Goverment Complex in Amory on Tuesday from 9 a.m. until noon.

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