Help Navigating Medicare Open Enrollment

The annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period is here once again and if you’re a Medicare recipient you have until December 7th this year to review your plan for the upcoming year.

By now you should have received your Annual Notice of Change letter in the mail informing you what changes will be happening to your current Medicare Plan from your provider.

“This is a very important letter to read and understand,” says Laura Crews, director of benefits access at Senior Resources Agency on Aging based in Norwich.

 “It’s going to explain the changes your current drug plan will be undertaking. And that could be simple things like the premium increase. It will also explain the changes to your co-pays that you pay towards certain drugs and of course the important formulary. The formulary is a list of drugs that your plan is willing to cover and help pay for.”

Crews points out that people who use insulin need to pay particular attention as Medicare is making significant changes to the cost of insulin in 2021 under a new program, but there are catches.

“The insulin savings program is meant to lower your insulin costs to no more than $35 for a 30-day supply of certain insulin medications that you take. But, in order to sign up for one of these plans you will need to sign up during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period and it’s also important to know that while there are 27 stand alone prescription drug plans available in Connecticut not all of them are participating in the senior citizens saving model, in fact only about 9 of them are participating,” says Crews.

Another important factor when considering switching to a plan that, say, offers cheaper insulin, is that the change could raise the costs of other medications you’re taking, so you need to look closely at ALL of your medications to see whether switching to another plan will benefit you or even save you money.

Shopping around for your healthcare insurance isn’t something we’re very good about because it’s so complex, but there are a number of places where you can get assistance apart from the improved Medicare.gov website and its plan finder, which now allows you to add in at least 5 pharmacies in your search so you can find those savings on your prescriptions.

And speaking of pharmacies, many offer an analysis and review of your current Medicare plan part (D) drug coverage, either in person or over the phone to help make sure you’re getting the best value for your buck and to make sure you’re not taking extra medications you may not need.

Crews also points out that Connecticut has a free service called CHOICES, a statewide number that people can call for help navigating the minefield of Medicare.

“We provide free unbiased information on all Medicare related information including the Medicare prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans. We’re going to ask you a lot of questions about the drugs you take and the pharmacy you use as you could potentially save hundreds of dollars just by changing your pharmacy.”

Crews says two of the biggest issues she sees time and again are people not bothering to review their plan and sticking with one pharmacy.

It takes just an hour to review your Medicare plan with a professional, which could make a big difference.

For anyone looking to speak with the state’s CHOICES service the toll-free number is: 1-800-994 9422


Brian Scott-Smith is a local broadcaster and journalist with 20 years experience in the news, TV and Radio business and is the creator and host of the weekly news podcast, Connecticut East This Week, which looks at stories of interest to the communities of eastern Connecticut.

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