Free service helps Northwest Coloradans to navigate Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment that begins Saturday, ends Dec. 7 | CraigDailyPress.com

Free service helps Northwest Coloradans to navigate Medicare’s Annual Open Enrollment that begins Saturday, ends Dec. 7

Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage plans. Open enrollment begins Saturday.

— During the 2016 coverage year about 1800 people in Moffat County were on Medicare, but only about half had drug plans through Medicare Part D, according to Betsy Packer who runs Medicareship and that means people are missing out and paying unnecessary penalties.

People who are 65 years old or older and those with certain disabilities are automatically eligible for Medicare coverage according to the Social Security Administration.

Open enrollment occurs every year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, according to Medicare.gov.

SHIP's or State Health Insurance Assistance Programs like Medicareship, offer local, personalized counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families with things like:

• Medicare questions, including your benefits, coverage, premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance.

• Complaints and appeals.

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• Joining or leaving a Medicare Advantage Plan like an HMO or PPO, any other Medicare health plan, or Medicare Prescription Drug Plan — Part D.

During the open enrollment period Packer helps Medicare beneficiaries to review their prescription plans to determine "if the prescription drug plan you are on now is still the best plan for you," she said. "Plan deductibles and formularies can change and/or your medications may have changed since you enrolled in a Part D plan."

Medicare Part D drug plans are not required, but penalties do apply for those who do not sign-up, said Packer.

"There are many drug plans that are offered in Colorado with prices from $18 to over $100," she said.

There were 24 different plans from 13 different companies in 2016 so Packer recommends creating a list of prescriptions, in-putting the list into the Medicare website to help choose a plan that works best for those particular prescriptions.

"This is especially important for people on expensive, brand name drugs. It's a way to save money while obtaining the prescriptions that you need," Packer said. "Once you are signed-up for a stand alone prescription drug plan it cannot be changed until the next open enrollment period and signing-up late will incur a penalty."

Five volunteers in Routt County, one volunteer in Craig and Packer are offering help to Medicare recipients in Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco Counties during the open enrollment period.

Open enrollment sessions are available in Craig, Steamboat Springs, Rangely and Meeker

Craig

• Colorado Northwestern Community College Bell Tower Computer Lab, 50 College Drive

10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 4 and Nov. 22

Steamboat Springs

• Colorado Health Conference Room of Northwest Colorado Health, 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101

12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 28

2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 2

• Yampa Valley Medical Center Conference Room 2, 1024 Central Park Drive

4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 7 and Nov. 10

Meeker

• Chuckwagon Senior Lunch

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26

Rangely

• Senior lunch at 403 N. White Street.

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 9

Moffat County residents on Tuesdays and Thursdays can meet with a volunteer who provides assistance at CNCC Bell Tower Room 106. Walk-ins are welcome, but Packer asks that participants try to call ahead to make an appointment and bring "an official list of prescriptions from your pharmacy or your actual Rx bottles." For more information contact Packer by email at medicareship@gmail.com or by calling 970-819-6401.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.