Helping someone save $10,000 in annual prescription costs is no small matter. When the recipient is a senior citizen living on a fixed income, that kind of savings looms even larger.
That’s what a counselor at a recent Medicare enrollment clinic sponsored by the nonprofit Council on Aging Southern California managed to do for a beneficiary in Orange County who took advantage of the free annual signup sessions held this time of year.
The sessions will continue through Dec. 7, when the enrollment period for Medicare ends. Clinics being held around Southern California are open to anyone eligible for the federal government’s health insurance program for people 65 and older. Younger recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance can also qualify for Medicare.
Called the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program, or HICAP for short, the enrollment clinics offer no-cost, one-on-one unbiased counseling to new enrollees and those who want to review their choices and perhaps make changes for 2018.
“We have clinics all over the county helping seniors understand Medicare and also save on the health plan costs and prescription drug benefits,” said Lisa Wright Jenkins, president and chief executive officer of the Council on Aging — Orange County.
Just last week, she said, a HICAP counselor pointed out that $10,000 savings on prescription drug costs to an older cancer patient.
The clinics are designed to help Medicare beneficiaries who look beyond the basic benefits of original Medicare — a doctor and a hospital that accept Medicare — to sign up for a Medicare Advantage (Part C) health plan and/or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan offered through private insurers.
There is also Medigap, privately sold supplemental insurance that covers some of what regular Medicare doesn’t.
Appointments are required for the HICAP sessions.
The staff and trained volunteers who serve as HICAP counselors can help navigate the often confusing and arcane language of Medicare to find plans that might make a better fit and lower an enrollee’s out-of-pocket costs. Because health needs change, monthly premiums can go up or medications that were once covered get dropped, health care advocates recommend an annual review.
To find locations, dates and phone numbers for upcoming HICAP Medicare counseling sessions in Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, go to the Council on Aging website at coasc.org, click on the Advocacy & Protection button and then…