Don't take your Senior Benefits for granted
News and Views from Rita
For those of my readers who are on the Senior Benefit Program, there is some bad news. The Senior Benefits Program was established on August 1, 2007, and was the program we were given when the Longevity Bonus was taken. To be eligible for this program you must be an Alaskan on a permanent basis, 65 years of age, have a Social Security number and have countable income that does not exceed the income limits of the program. Resources (assets) do not count in this program.
The cash benefits are $125, $175 or $250 each month, depending on income. The income limits for each payment level are tied to the Alaska Federal Poverty guidelines and change each year as the poverty level changes (see the latest guidelines in the box below).
If you think you might meet these qualifications, you should apply for the program now by calling 1-888-352-4150 and asking for an application.
This program will end in 2015 unless you and I get more involved by calling and writing to your legislators and your local newspapers. If you do not know who your legislators are, please call me and I will get your information to you.
Remember the old saying that a squeaky wheel gets greased. That was never as true as in politics today. Tell everyone that you need to keep this program going. The Feds (Congress) are taking away or reducing your food stamps and they will trample on any of your other benefits if you let them without a murmur.
New coverage details for state retirees
Retired Alaska state employees should be advised that even though AlaskaCare chose Moda Health for their dental plan, it does not mean that you have to choose Delta Dental for your dental care. You can still go to whichever dentist you choose. There is no penalty for going to a dentist who is not in network, and your claim will be processed the same way it has always been processed.
The difference is that the dentists in the network have negotiated fees, which may be lower than the fees your dentist charges and the portion that you are responsible for will be less if you go to a preferred dentist.
Retired state employees will find that there are many changes to our contract with the state’s AlaskaCare program that were not in our original contract and I have not been able to find out under whose order this was accomplished.
In regard to your prescriptions, the Aetna pharmacist will now be able to fill the medication differently (not exactly what your doctor ordered), possibly changing your out-of-pocket costs. The specialty pharmacy medication list has changed and some drugs will require pre-certification before they are covered. You will need to call Aetna’s Health Concierge at 1-855-7884-8646 for additional information.
You will need to confirm that your local pharmacy is in Aetna’s network. If you get your medicines through mail order, you must first register with Aetna Pharmacy, which you will do by going to the AlaskaCare website (www.alaskacare.gov), then Aetna, then Pharmacy, then Refill by mail. Then you will have to get new prescriptions from your doctor for any restricted drugs and these are not transferable from the Costco pharmacy. Your doctor can fax the prescriptions to 1-866-329-2779.
Many of the services you previously received without precertification now need to be pre-certified and you can receive this by contacting the Aetna Health Concierge. Failure to get precertification can result in you having to pay a $400 penalty.
To those who need to find an Aetna Preferred dentist, you can find the information if you go to http://www.alaskacare.gov and from there go to AETNA and then MODA dentists. All of the dentists are categorized under ZIP codes, so you will have to input your Alaska ZIP code to find the nearest dentist to your home. There are 33 dentists just in the zip 99504!
If you cannot navigate the Internet, you can go to your library and find help there. Call me and I will be able to help you, but be advised there are many dentists in Anchorage and Alaska and I won’t be able to give all of their names to you.
Just as a reminder, if you are on Medicare, you already have health insurance and you do not have to join the Affordable Care Act, but if you have adult children, grandchildren, etc. and they have no health insurance, you should let them know that they have until March 31 to get their health insurance or face penalties. We can help you navigate the program and find an insurance policy that suits you and your needs.
TRICARE prescription pilot
TRICARE For Life (TFL) beneficiaries soon will receive letters guiding them to TRICARE Pharmacy Home Delivery or a military pharmacy for some prescriptions as part of a congressionally mandated pilot program, officials of the military health care plan said.
TFL is secondary coverage for TRICARE beneficiaries who have both Medicare Parts A and B in the United States and U.S. territories. The pilot program starts March 15, and it requires beneficiaries who use TFL to get certain medications through Home Delivery or at a military pharmacy. The program applies to refills of maintenance medications taken regularly for chronic conditions, officials said.
March 31 is also the last day you can apply for the Permanent Fund Dividend.
Grey Power on the rise
Join my informal “Grey Power” discussion group and share your thoughts on any issues you are interested in. You may join the group even if you would like to talk anonymously. The number to call is 276-1059 or, outside of Anchorage, toll-free at 1-800-478-1059. You could also write to me at OPAG, 325 E. Third Ave. Anchorage, AK 99501, or send email to email@example.com.
Rita Hatch volunteers for the Older Persons Action Group Medicare Information program.