Local News

Deadline Approaching To Sign Up For Medicare

Posted May 12, 2006

— Officials said up to 6 million of the 43 million Medicare beneficiaries have not signed up for a prescription drug plan. Monday is the last day to enroll without paying a penalty.

Dolline Griffin chose her Medicare drug benefit plan earlier in the year. Until recently, her husband, Jim, was never on medications and did not think he would need coverage.

Sixteen companies offer Medicare plans in North Carolina with a total of 39 different options. While seniors can enroll over the phone or through the Internet, most are not accustomed to touch-tone options and mouse clicks, and require a more personal approach.

Resources for Seniors

Griffin said she does not use the computer that much, so she went to the State Health Insurance Information Program where counselors help seniors find a plan that works for them.

"It's very difficult to choose the plan that's right for an individual. That's why we think our service is so necessary," said deputy insurance commissioner Carla Obiol.

Across the country, trained volunteers as young as high school students help seniors find a plan that covers their list of medications, one that is affordable and works with a preferred local pharmacy.

"I'm the type of person where I understand better if I talk to someone, rather than read it," said senior citizen Mary Lynn Harrison.

The Griffins did not qualify for extra help through Social Security, so they chose a plan with no deductible. It only costs $18 a month. They are glad they got it done because after midnight Monday, late enrollment includes a penalty and they would have to wait until January for coverage to begin.

The State Health Insurance Information Program is closed for the weekend, but they expect a busy day Monday with extended hours until 8 p.m. They are located at 111 Seaboard Avenue in Raleigh and can be contacted at

(919) 733-0111.

Another agency offering help is Resources for Seniors, which is located at 1110 Navajo Drive, Suite 400, in Raleigh. Their phone number is

(919) 872-7933

.

You can also call

(800) MEDICARE

24 hours a day, seven days a week, which will be enrolling people through midnight Monday.

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