Kicking the tires on your medicare plan

Mike Moen
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BISMARCK -- Older North Dakotans are being bombarded with reminders about Medicare enrollment. While it is tempting to block out some messaging, state officials said there is important information that could help save money on prescription drug costs.

Enrollment for Medicare 'Part D,' for people already on Medicare, begins Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7.

Karri Morris, Medicare State Health Insurance Counseling manager for the North Dakota Insurance Department, said there are few significant changes to the process this year, but enrollees should still see if there is a better drug plan for them.

"If they have medications that they are taking, they will want to review and compare the overall costs of the prescription plan, rather than just looking at the premium costs," Morris advised.

She pointed out people too often focus on premium costs and overlook big changes in out-of-pocket expenses for their medications. And with national celebrities doing television ads for services such as Medicare Advantage, Morris cautioned some of what is being offered either might not be available to them, or would not meet their needs.

Locally, Sanford Health is offering a new Medicare Advantage plan, but it is only available in select counties, which Morris contended is why it is important to reach out to the Insurance Department and speak with a counselor. They are scheduling appointments now, and Morris said it is best not to wait.

"You don't want to wait until the end of open enrollment," Morris cautioned. "At that time, they can encounter long wait times, or take the risk of missing the deadline of getting enrolled into a new plan."

Josh Askvig, state director for AARP North Dakota, said scammers will not be taking a break this year, either. He urged people to be mindful of anyone who might call or email and sound helpful, but really is not.

"They try and use that open enrollment period to heighten awareness, and they'll call and say, you know, 'In order to enroll, you need to pay this small fee,'" Askvig explained.

He said neither the state nor Medicare officials will call with such a message. Appointments for Medicare counseling can be scheduled on the Insurance Department's website, or by calling 888-575-6611.