HMSA workshops explain new program
"Mass confusion" has been reported because of Medicare’s Part D drug plan
Islanders bewildered about the Medicare Part D prescription drug program might get some answers at information sessions scheduled by the Hawaii Medical Service Association.
HMSA workshops in November
The following sessions on the Medicare Part D prescription drug program will be held in the HMSA Center, at 818 Keeaumoku St.:
» Nov. 7, 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m.
» Nov. 12, 9 to 10:30 a.m.
» Nov. 14, 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m.
» Nov. 19, 9 to 10:30 a.m.
» Nov. 22, 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m.
» Nov. 28, 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m.
All sessions will be in the Multi-Purpose Room, except the one from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Nov. 12. It will be in Room S-100.
Hilo sessions will be in the HMSA Hilo Office from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 7, 14 and 21. The Kona session will be in the HMSA Office there from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Nov. 10.
"There is no question this is a very confusing new benefit," said Stacy Evensen, HMSA vice president for governmental affairs.
She and Carlene Mayes, HMSA 65C Plus administration manager, conducted information sessions Wednesday in two small senior centers on the Big Island, in Keeau and Hilo.
More than 220 people attended the two-hour sessions, and "the audience was in rapt attention," Evensen said. "They had a lot of questions.
"The initial impression is mass confusion. At the end of these sessions, people have been fairly satisfied that they understand the basic concept, but not completely without confusion," she said.
Ultimately, seniors must decide which plan is best for them based on their income, the drugs they are taking and where they want to purchase them, she said.
A woman with an adult foster care program in Hilo attended one of the sessions representing 32 clients with individual needs and is trying to help them select drug plans, she said.
Medicare beneficiaries may begin enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan Nov. 15. Coverage will begin Jan. 1, but enrollment will continue until May 15. People who sign up after that will pay 1 percent more per month for their premium.
More than 25 stand-alone prescription drug plans are being offered in Hawaii, as well as different options as part of Medicare Advantage Plans and other Medicare Health Plans.
"I'm pretty impressed with some of the seniors who are starting to figure out how it's going to work for them," Evensen said, noting some 65C Plus members have attended two or three meetings to try to understand the program.
"It's a big, new important benefit but very different from what people experienced in the past," she said. "We're so used to medical plans, especially in Hawaii, being pretty much the same, offering pretty much the same benefits."
But all Medicare drug plans being offered have different premiums, deductibles and coverage.
"We're teaching people to take special care as they approach decision-making so they're comparing apples to apples and doing homework to prepare for decision," Evensen said.
Seniors with existing drug coverage provided by past or present employers that is comparable or better than standard Medicare coverage should receive letters from the plan provider. "Save the letter should anything change," Evensen advised.
Mayes said HMSA basically is offering three plans to 65C Plus members. The least expensive one has a premium of $22.46 a month and offers standard Medicare Part D benefits, with a $250 deductible.
An enhanced plan costs $96.01 a month and eliminates the deductible and so-called "doughnut hole," or gap in coverage for drug costs from $2,250 to $3,600.
Islanders should be aware of possible fraud and abuse associated with the new program, Evensen said, noting people are being called at home to sign up for plans and asked for Social Security numbers.
No personal information should be given out by telephone, she said.
HMSA is continuing information sessions on the prescription drug program in November in Honolulu, Hilo and Kona. They are open to its 38,000 65C Plus members and the public.
Seating is limited so reservations are requested. Call 948-5555 on Oahu and the HMSA office on the Big Island. More information also is available at www.HMSA.com.