Local News

Program Helps Medicare Enrollees Find Best Drug Plan

Posted December 27, 2006 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2009 6:06 p.m. EST

Sunday is the deadline for seniors to choose a Medicare drug plan for the next year. It's a big decision, and one that many older adults have found very confusing.

Alberta Harrington is on several medications for her asthma and heart. At 75, she knew she needed to apply for the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

“I didn't understand it,” said Harrington.

Harrington sought help in choosing one of 51 plans offered in North Carolina. North Carolina's Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program, known as SHIIP, has several counselors who have been trying to talk older adults through the process in person and over the phone.

“You want to make sure the prescription drugs are on the plan they choose, and it's at a price they can afford,” said Doranna Anderson, assistant deputy commissioner for SHIPP in the state Department of Insurance.

Some of the plans have deductibles, co-payments or premiums, but some don't. If an applicant gives a counselor a list of medications, the counselor can find the best plan for the enrollee.

Choosing a good plan has brought relief to Harrington, who said the money she'll save on prescription drugs would help her make ends meet.

“To have to pay for my medicine and my bills, I had nothing extra to buy no clothes with,” she said.

To get in touch with a counselor at the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program, Medicare enrollees can call 1-800-443-9354.

If you enrollee cannot afford your premium, you might be able to get assistance from Social Security. In addition, for the first time, the state is offering help for low-income seniors. If you qualify, you can get help paying the monthly Medicare premium. For more information, call 1-888-488-NCRX or visit the NCRX Web site at www.ncrx.gov.