Medicare tour stops in Sun City Center
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11/29/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

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People who qualify for Medicare health coverage have until Dec. 31 to change their plan during the fall open enrollment.

To publicize this opportunity, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are sponsoring a Medicare bus tour called “Working Together for Better Health.”

At a tour stop his morning in Sun City Center, Dr. Richard Wild, who is chief medical officer of the CMS in the Atlanta region, encouraged the 30 or so seniors in attendance to take advantage of the open enrollment period.

There are a number of Medicare options to choose from, according to Wild. But those options have caused some confusion; especially regarding the Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

Wild said low-income seniors should contact their local Social Security office to see if they qualify for assistance to pay for their Medicare drug benefits.

All seniors should get a flu shot each year, Wild said, because the benefits outweigh the costs.

Hugo Huapaya is a health insurance specialist with CMS. He recommended that every senior receive a pneumonia inoculation for long-term immunity to the bacterial disease; a new immunization for pneumonia would not be needed for at least eight years. When a person turns 65 and enrolls in Medicare, she is eligible for diabetes and glaucoma screenings along with other benefits, according to Huapaya.

Huapaya said Medicare also covers diagnostic examinations including mammograms, as well as screenings for prostate and colorectal cancers and osteoporosis.

Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE) is Florida’s health insurance assistance program for seniors. SHINE volunteers staffed computers to assist Medicare recipients in connecting to the Medicare website to find a few plan options that might serve them best.

Winifred Weaver has Medicare and opted in with the drug plan last year but the cost keeps going up, so she is looking for an option with HMOs. She said her medical and prescription drug needs are not high, but she needs to find a less expensive option. Weaver said she had found plans online before, then did more research into the companies only to find that they were not good for her because they only had one eye doctor, 50 miles away.

After entering personal and medical information into the form on the Medicare website and getting a list of lower-cost Medicare plans, Weaver said her next step would be to check to see if the plans include appropriate doctors or her prescription drugs.

Dwayne Slavik is on Medicare Parts A and B and his prescription drugs had been covered by a private insurance plan. But the company he retired from dropped the drug insurance for retirees. Slavik was looking for which Medicare Part D prescription drug plan would be best for him. SHINE helped him find a cheaper plan.

Photo Credit: Seán Kinane/WMNF

Photo Caption: Dr. Richard Wild, chief medical officer of the CMS in the Atlanta region speaks to Sun City Center residents.

Learn more:

Medicare.gov

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

SHINE

Rep. Adam Putnam

Social Security Administration

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