Help available for choosing Medicaid Part D drug plan

Despite a lot of negative press, the Medicare Part D prescription-drug plan is helping many seniors who need assistance paying for their medications. Of course, the plan can't help you until you've done your homework, so the first step for Medicare-eligible seniors is to find out more about what Part D has to offer.

The Medicare Plan Finder - which is on-line at or by calling (800) MEDICARE (800-633-4227) - matches beneficiaries with the best plan for them with all costs laid out.

One-on-one counseling is available for seniors who need some assistance in using the Plan Finder Program, or who just want to ask questions and gather more information. At Medicare Today we've sponsored several enrollment and information sessions at the Wallingford Senior Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, Suite 104.

Our Medicare Today counselors answer Part D questions and work with seniors to input their medication lists using the Plan Finder, then analyze available plans to identify and present the most cost-effective options.

Many of our counselors are pharmacy students and volunteers, and there is absolutely no pressure to enroll in any particular plan, and in fact, there is no pressure to enroll at all.

Many are taking advantage of this counseling and are saving hundreds of dollars a month in drug costs at their local drug store.

Additional services

As anyone who is watching or reading the news knows, some people are having great difficulties with this new system. I have two ideas for those with lingering questions.

The first is the HHS Medicare Rx Express Bus Tour, which is in Western Washington from Wednesday, Feb. 22, through Tuesday, Feb. 28. Government experts will be on hand to help seniors get answers and make a decision about Part D.

The other is to make an advance appointment (461-7825) for counseling sessions at the Wallingford Senior Center in March or April.

Each person only needs to bring two things: a list of medications with dosages and frequencies and his/her Medicare card. Twenty minutes later, the trained volunteer will produce a list of the top plans that serve their local area, including the person's preferred pharmacies, and an estimated monthly and annual drug cost.

I would strongly encourage anyone who is concerned about Part D to take a closer look. Come see us at the Wallingford Senior Center or seek out the assistance of a senior care professional at State Health Benefit Advisors (SHIBA), King County Senior Rights Assistance, a local senior center, church or hospital.

It is really not as difficult as we're hearing, and for many, the savings they will get makes it well worth their time to find out more and sign up.

Sheila Stickel is the Medicare Today representative in Washington. She can be reached at 282-5544.

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