BULLHEAD CITY — Western Arizona Council of Governments is hosting a Medicare Enrollment Blitz to help seniors sort through their Medicare options.
“Seniors in our communities are so confused about Medicare,” said Kathy Bruck, State Health Insurance Program benefits counselor. “There are new plans coming out every year and it’s hard to keep up and make sure they’re choosing the newest and greatest plans to their advantage.”
The free one-on-one help runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the Bullhead City Nutrition Center, 2275 Trane Road.
Appointments, which can be made by calling 928-758-1538, are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome if they are willing to wait, Bruck said. People attending should bring a list of any medications they take.
Seniors also will have the opportunity to receive flu and pneumonia shots from Walmart Pharmacy, receive information from We Care Cancer Support, and discover if they are eligible for additional benefits such as utility assistance, one-time rent assistance and other low-income subsidies through WACOG.
Medicare is the country’s health insurance program for people age 65 or older and for some people younger than 65 with certain disabilities. Enrollment in the federal insurance runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
“When you’re new to Medicare, it’s overwhelming,” Bruck said. “People come in and bring me the pile of mail that they get and tell me they can’t figure it out — we help sort it through.”
There are four parts to traditional Medicare: Part A, hospital insurance; Part B, medical insurance; Part C, and Part D, Medicare prescription drug plans.
“The biggest changes this coming year are with the Part D drug plans,” said Dale Gibson, WACOG area benefits counselor. “Fortunately we’ve gone from 23 plans this year to 28 plans next year, which means there’s more selection for the beneficiaries. The drug plans in the last few years have changed their formularies which creates problems, especially if the beneficiary doesn’t check their plan to see that their drugs are still covered.”
Helping seniors determine a drug plan is 75-80 percent of what counselors do during the enrollment blitz, Gibson said.
There also are Medicare Advantage plans, which cover the same things as the original Medicare, but also prescriptions, drug and vision, dental and some hearing.
“For the first time in several years, we also have two new Medicare Advantage plans from Aetna,” he said. “One is an HMO and one is a PPO. People need help walking through this.”
Gibson and his four volunteers cover Northern Arizona and his counterpart covers the southern part of the state.
“Between the volunteers and my counterpart, we see annually over 2,000 clients for one-on-one counseling,” he said. “In addition to the two days in Bullhead City, we’re also hosting the same enrollment help at locations in Kingman, Lake Havasu City, Parker, Quartzsite and Yuma. And we do this year-round — Kathy is here every Monday.”
In addition to Medicare enrollment help, WACOG offers Senior Medicare Patrol, providing assistance in countering errors, fraud and abuse.
“We help clients, especially if they think something is wrong with their billing,” Gibson said. “That happens a lot, so we get involved and we’ll call hospitals and doctors and providers and try to figure out what’s going on and resolve the problem if we can.”
WACOG is a community action agency providing a comprehensive array of services benefiting a diverse population from preschool children participating in Head Start programs to older adults attending senior center activities.
“We have a central intake number that no matter what you’re calling about, it all goes into that central intake,” Gibson said. “From there it gets dispersed to the different department so the client doesn’t have to make 14 phone calls to find help.”