Open enrollment for Medicare begins Oct. 15

The purpose of this letter is to remind everyone on Medicare of the upcoming open enrollment period to open or change prescription drug plans, sometimes referred to as Part D plans. Part D plans are issued on a calendar year basis, so the open enrollment period starting Oct. 15 and ending Dec. 7 will be to enroll in plans for the 2017 calendar year.

The good news is there is a program available to assist you in reviewing the 2017 prescription drug plans and finding the plan that will cover your prescriptions at the lowest cost The Senior Health Insurance Information Program or “SHIIP” is a program sponsored by Medicare. In Iowa SHIIP is managed by the Insurance

Division of the State of Iowa, and the SHIIP employees in Des Moines provide the training and information for approximately 350 volunteers to enable the volunteers to assist Medicare participants evaluate their health insurance options. Since SHIIP volunteers do not sell or recommend specific products, but simply provide information, you can be certain the information they provide will be free, confidential and objective.

In Iowa last year, 50% of the people who met with SHIIP volunteers during open enrollment decided to change their Part D plan in order to save money. Those who changed plans last year saved a cumulative 16 million dollars! Most Part D plans can and do change their formulary of drugs they will cover, change the pricing of the drugs and change the premium from one year to the next. So even if you are completely satisfied with your 2016 Part D plan, you should still review your options for 2017 to be certain it is still the best plan for you for next year.

In addition, there are programs to assist Medicare recipients get additional help with their prescription costs, based on income and resources. The application for assistance is completed with the Social Security administration, and SHIIP volunteers can assist with this application. SHIIP volunteers can also help recent retirees and individuals turning 65 understand Medicare and the health insurance options available to them to cover doctor and hospital expenses and the approximate premium and out of pocket costs for medical services other than prescriptions.

The SHIIP volunteers, based at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, are available to assist anyone on Medicare with questions about Part D plans. We can also enter your prescriptions in the Medicare.gov site and help you compare all of the Part D plans available for 2017. If you do nothing, your 2016 Part D plan will carry over and be in effect for 2017, but if you can save money by enrollment in a different Part D plan for 2017, your new plan will take effect January 1, 2017 and your old plan will automatically be terminated at the same time. To meet with a SHIIP volunteer, call 712-213-8683 and Danielle will set up an appointment for you.

Sue Geisinger

Gary Rosene

SHIIP Volunteers