Part D Open Enrollment Period is underway

Have you reviewed your prescription drug coverage for 2018? The Open Enrollment Period for Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans is in full swing. Beginning Oct. 15 and continuing until Dec. 7, Medicare beneficiaries have to opportunity to review their coverage, determine the most appropriate plan for 2018 and enroll. There are no public Medicare Advantage plans being offered in Alaska however, there will be 19 Medicare prescription drug plans offered. Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to remember that even if they have been completely satisfied with their Part D coverage in 2017, the plans themselves may make changes annually and this year’s choice may not be the best option for the upcoming year.

Medicare beneficiaries also need to be on the alert for enrollment fraud. The incidence of marketing fraud is higher during enrollment season. Medicare has established marketing rules for companies that offer Part D coverage, including where and how they can advertise, how they can make contact with potential customers, what they are allowed to say and to whom they are allowed to speak.

Plans can send you mail, but unless you are currently enrolled in their plan, they cannot contact you via phone, email, visit your residence, or even approach you in public without your permission. They can offer exhibits at public events for educational purposes, but they cannot try to sell or enroll someone in a plan. They are allowed to provide contact information if it is requested by the beneficiary.

Here is a list of things that plans can do: Send you mail, call, email, or text you about plan business if you are currently enrolled in their plan. They can provide meals, refreshments, prizes and gifts at educational events, but the value of these cannot exceed $15. They call also visit you to talk about plan options if you have formally agreed on the topics to be discussed prior to the appointment.

Here is a list things that plans are not allowed to do: Provide any type of communication or advertising that appears to be sent from an official government source. They are not allowed to make unsolicited contact via calls, texts, emails, or by visiting with anyone not already enrolled in their company’s plan. Even if you are a current customer, but you have opted out of being contacted, they cannot contact you by text or email. Plans are not allowed to approach potential customers in a public place such as a parking lot or shopping center. Plans are not allowed to conduct sales events in a healthcare setting such as a medical complex unless it is in a common area like a cafeteria. Even if you make an appointment to discuss prescription drug coverage, the plan is not allowed to change or add to the agreed upon topics unless you have agreed to this beforehand.

Ways to protect yourself from enrollment fraud include asking for verification of everything you are told in writing and never providing your Medicare information to anyone but trusted healthcare providers. If you are concerned that you have been a victim of a violation of marketing rules or you fear that you have been pressured to enroll or have been enrolled in a plan without your permission, you can call the Medicare Information Office for the State of Alaska, who oversees the Senior Medicare Patrol to report your suspicions.

Again, although you may be very satisfied with the coverage you had this year, it is a good idea to make an appointment to review your options for next year. Changes in your medications, the pharmacy you choose to use, and the available plans themselves can make it worthwhile as it may save you money.

There is unbiased assistance available to help beneficiaries review their coverage and compare available plan choices for 2018. The Medicare Information Office at 1-800-478-6065 serves as a call center for trained counselors throughout the state who can guide beneficiaries through the process of choosing the best plan for them at the lowest cost. They can also screen you and help you apply for the Extra Help Program, which can provide financial assistance to help pay for Part D coverage for those who qualify. It is wise to call early and make either a phone or in-person appointment.

Nila Morgan is a Master Certified Medicare Counselor and Medicare Fraud Education Coordinator who works at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center.

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Nila Morgan is a Certified Medicare Counselor who works at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center.