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People explore options for Medicare Part D plans

Julia Schmidt of Jamestown spent part of Thursday morning reviewing her prescription medication coverage offered through Medicare Part D with a counselor from the North Dakota State Health Insurance Counseling program.

Schmidt was one of about 20 people who had met with the five counselors before noon on Thursday at the Gladstone Inn & Suites in Jamestown to review their coverage through Medicare Part D. The North Dakota Insurance Department has held Medicare Part D open enrollment events in cities around the state since the open enrollment period started on Oct. 15.

“I have one prescription for my eyes and it is very expensive,” she said, “so this is a boon to me.”

Schmidt, 88, said her husband, when he was alive, had up to a dozen prescriptions because he had heart problems.

“Boy this drug insurance is wonderful,” she said about Medicare Part D. “It’s my tax dollars at work.”

Schmidt said she did some research on the internet and found a prescription drug plan that offered the drug she needs for a lesser price, but she still came to the enrollment event to get a second opinion.

“They usually will find a plan that saves me money and offers me more coverage,” she said. “I’m glad they are here.”

Holly Brockman, an investigator with the North Dakota Insurance Department, said she wishes more people like Schmidt would come to the Medicare Part D enrollment events. She said most Medicare recipients would most likely save money over their current plan.

Brockman said about 700 Medicare recipients in North Dakota had attended the enrollment events before Thursday. She said she was hoping to see about 80 people at the Jamestown event.

Brockman said if people on Medicare are happy with their current prescription drug plan and don’t want to change it, they don’t have to.

“It (a person’s current plan) will just continue on,” she said. “But, the plans change every year, so it’s a good idea for people to come in and review their plan.”

She said often people can save money by coming to a Medicare Part D enrollment event and having their prescription plan reviewed by a counselor with the North Dakota State Health Insurance Counseling program. Brockman said only 15 percent of the people who receive Medicare have their prescription plan reviewed annually. In 2016 the 15 percent of Medicare recipients who had their plans reviewed saved more than $1.5 million overall in North Dakota.

“If we had, say 75 percent of Medicare beneficiaries reviewing their Part D plans, that would be significant savings,” she said.

Brockman said there are 23 drug prescription plans offered through Medicare Part D in North Dakota. The medications a person takes determines which plan works best for him or her, she said.

There is only one more enrollment event planned before the enrollment period ends on Dec. 7, and that is in Williston on Nov. 9. Any Medicare recipient in North Dakota wanting to have his or her Part D plan reviewed can call 211 until Nov. 17. The staff at the North Dakota Insurance Department will take that person’s information and the medications he or she is taking and run a comparison, then mail the results to that person. Medicare recipients may also call 1-800-634-2273 or the North Dakota Insurance Department at  701-328-2440.