Elderly can get Part D answers

Published 8:34 am Monday, June 20, 2016

The Washington Parish Council on Aging is hosting a series of informational seminars for senior citizens or anyone nearing the age of 60 who needs more information about Medicare Part D.

Medicare Part D is a prescription drug insurance plan, and all seniors are required to have this or another drug insurance plan.

Annette Hernandez, a community outreach advocate with the Council on Aging, said many seniors do not realize this is a required plan that they must opt in to, so they don’t get it if they’re healthy.

However, Hernandez said anyone who waits to buy into the plan could face stiff penalties months or years later, because when seniors do opt into it to help cover medical expenses, each month’s bill include a penalty fee that never goes away.

Hernandez said there are about 9,000 seniors in Washington Parish and about 30 percent of them need to opt into Medicare Part D.

Open enrolment begins in mid-October, unless a senior citizen is considered low-income, in which case they can opt in anytime.

Hernandez recommends everyone who is not enrolled to get enrolled, even if they have to pay a penalty, because it’s better to pay now than later when it could be more expensive. Hernandez said she doesn’t believe the rule will change any time soon.

“At a Department of Insurance training, I asked people high up in the program why can’t they change that (rule) because I had a 90 year old come into my office once, and she hadn’t signed up for Medicare Part D because when she got into Medicare she was really, really healthy and, by the time she got to us she couldn’t afford to pay the penalty and keep her insurance each month, so she had to do without. And they said, well, rules are rules.”

The national base premium for Medicare Part D is $33.13 per month, and the penalty is one percent of the monthly cost for as many months as a person has not been covered by the plan.

“For example, if a lady didn’t sign up, and she went 30 months without a Part D plan, she’ll have to pay 33.13 for a plan plus a penalty of $9.93,” said Hernandez. “And she’ll pay that for the rest of her life.”

Although seniors cannot immediately sign up for Medicare Part D unless they’re low-income, Hernandez said she recommends attending a seminar.

“It’s informational to make them start thinking about it, or if they think they might qualify for extra help, or if they want to change plans,” said Hernandez.

In addition, Hernandez said people can call the office up and make an appointment for a face to face consultation.

The number is 985-839-4535. The offices are at 1025 Dobson St. in Franklinton.

The next seminar will be June 29 at the Westminster Woods Apartments, 1600 Ave. F in Bogalusa. This seminar will be at 1:30 p.m.

On June 23, there will be a seminar at the Angie Civic Center at 30276 in Angie. This seminar will start at 10:30 a.m.