Note: The Lawrence Times is offering some space for area organizations and organizers to express their views, provide updates and attempt to reach other folks who might share their mission. This post is contributed content (i.e., not produced by the Times staff). See more in our Community Voices section, or see how to submit your own piece.
In today’s world, the cost of everything seems to be going up. In many cases, we have little control over what we pay for groceries, gasoline, and vital goods and services. And yet, each year, seniors have the opportunity to review their Medicare plans during the Open Enrollment period. This period allows seniors to make sure that they have the best coverage and review their projected out-of-pocket expenses for both premiums and specifically prescription costs related to their Part D prescription plans.
Each year, the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County (SRC) has a team of state-certified volunteers who can provide free consultations for area seniors to review their plans for the upcoming year. This consultation will review the best cost options for your Part D prescription plan to keep premiums affordable while ensuring that the coverage you have keeps your out-of-pocket expenses on prescriptions is as low as possible.
The volunteer counselors at SRC are certified each year through the state of Kansas via the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) program, which provides this free counseling to seniors across the state. SRC’s SHICK counselors provide an unbiased review of your plan with access to the costs of all available plans to ensure that seniors can make an informed choice each year for their coverage.
During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7) each year, seniors from Douglas County and surrounding areas can make an appointment for a consultation. This year seniors can make an appointment online by going to www.bit.ly/SRC-OpenEnroll or email Medicare@YourSRC.org to register for an appointment. For seniors who do not have computer or internet access, please call 785-727-7872 and a volunteer can assist with getting registered for an appointment.
It may seem as if reviewing your coverage every year is redundant and unnecessary. However, with the current landscape of the changing costs of health insurance, changes in drug tiers, and the ongoing availability of more generic prescriptions, plus changes in our health from year to year, this simple review can often create significant savings from one year to the next.
In 2020, the average savings per consultation was nearly $265 per year with some seniors reporting their savings into the thousands. According to Mike & Vicki Hemley, “We saved at least $600 on our drug plan because of our consultation last year. We tell everyone we know about this service at SRC. We are already scheduled to do a review again this year!”
SRC SHICK counselors can help seniors apply for Medicare Savings Programs, and Low-Income Subsidy/Extra Help can help pay Part B and/or Part D premiums and drug costs for seniors who have a single monthly income of $1,610 and couples with a monthly income of $2,178 or less.
SRC’s certified Medicare counselors are available year-round to Douglas County residents who are turning 65 and navigating the transition to Medicare from traditional health insurance coverage. Because the process can be a bit overwhelming, there is a monthly presentation called “Welcome to Medicare” that reviews the finer points of the process to ensure that those making the transition are enrolled within 90 days of turning 65. For many, this entails learning how Medicare will work with existing health insurance provided by a spouse or employer but is still required when you reach your 65th birthday. The volunteers are available to assist anyone making this transition to map out the best plans for their current needs and have their enrollment in place before they owe a penalty.
Throughout the Open Enrollment Period, the Senior Resource Center is prepared to serve as many seniors as possible with phone, Zoom, and in-person appointments. According to SRC’s executive director Megan Poindexter, health and safety remain a top priority for guests and staff. “Mitigating any risk of COVID and seasonal infections is always top of mind for us. We are invested in protecting the health and safety of our clients, our volunteers, and our staff. We ask all in-person guests to wear their masks, and anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated will be accommodated with a phone or Zoom appointment.”
In addition to having ongoing phone, Zoom and in-person appointments available in our Center at 745 Vermont St. in Lawrence, counselors from the Senior Resource Center will hold dedicated clinics in each of the Douglas County communities to serve seniors in Baldwin City, Eudora, and Lecompton. To schedule an appointment at one of these dedicated clinics, call 785-727-7872 or email Medicare@YourSRC.org.
Medicare Open Enrollment Outreach Clinics
Eudora Open Enrollment Clinic
1-3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12
Eudora Community Building, 1638 Elm St., Eudora
Lecompton Open Enrollment Clinic
9 a.m. to noon Thursday, Nov. 18
Lecompton Pride Building, 620 Woodson Ave., Lecompton
Baldwin City Open Enrollment Clinic
1-3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19
Baldwin City Library, 800 Seventh St., Baldwin City
The Senior Resource Center has been providing counseling services through the SHICK program for many years. SRC serves up to 1,000 seniors each year, and many seniors report finding significant savings for the coming year. More than anything, these appointments can provide firm answers to questions about Medicare plans and an unbiased overview of all the options available for those who feel overwhelmed by the numerous offers and options available each year.
— Michelle Meier is the Director of Communications at the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County. For more information about Medicare enrollment or scheduling a consultation during the Medicare Open Enrollment period, go to www.YourSRC.org or call 785-727-7872.