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Need help with Medicare Part D? N.C. can help

Posted December 29, 2009

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— Need assistance in deciding whether to change the federal prescription-drug plan for you or someone you care for?

The open enrollment deadline for 2010 coverage of Medicare Part D is Dec. 31.

Need help with Medicare Part D? N.C. can help Need help with Medicare Part D? N.C. can help

North Carolina has a free program available to the 1.4 million residents who qualify for the prescription plan. It's called Seniors Health Insurance Information Program, and trained volunteers guide Medicare patients and their providers over the phone or in person about the right plan for them.

"At any given time, you can have a change in a product or prescription, and you may have the best plan for last year, but that plan may not be the best for you next year," said Wayne Goodwin, commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

Even if someone doesn't think they need help or isn't sure or if they are confused, Goodwin recommends they seek out assistance at any of the state's centers.

Not only do some plans change year to year, some disappear and are not available at all.

That happened this year to Glenda Jensen's 71-year-old mother.

"It's been crazy, confusing," Jensen said.

With more than 40 plans to choose from, Jensen went to the SHIIP site in Wake County to make sure she was signing up her mother for the right plan. (View a list of SHIIP sites.)

"I figured we'll let the experts do that instead of me muddling my way through the Web site and guess, literally, at something," she said.

After less than an hour of meeting with a counselor, Jensen learned her mother should not only change plans but she qualifies for certain subsidies that could save her about $4,000 next year.

"That's huge for her," Jensen said.

For assistance, call 1-800-443-9354 or visit a counselor at a designated SHIIP site across the state.

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  • kingfather Jan 1, 2010

    A strong vote for the SHIP staff. In November, my wife changed her RX D plan from BCBSNC to First Health 2 days after enrollment opened. In early December she got a dis-enrollment letter from BCBS effective 12/31/09. Then she got a letter from 1st Health welcoming her, and a few days later a new RX-D card to use at pharmacies.On 12/30 she called 1st Health to make sure everything was OK, only to be told that Medicare had denied her enrollment because she was still with BCBS for 2010--NOT. A call to BCBS confirmed she was out as of 12/31/09. A call to the SHIP staff and within 45 minutes they had confirmed she was out at both BCBS and 1st Health because of Medicare's error. She then got Medicare on the line with my wife and had Medicare correct their mistake,and have her enrolled in 1st Health before the 12/31 deadline. Kudos to SHIP for the excellent assistance in correcting a mess that Medicare had caused, and which I doubt we could have resolved on our own. SHIP does work. Thanks.