Medicare fairs a godsend for some seniors

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Medicare fairs a godsend for some seniors

Sharon King couldn’t believe her good fortune after going almost a year without a heart medication prescribed by her doctor.

“This is awesome,” King, 66, said of the help and advice she received from a team of health professions students during Thursday’s five-hour Medicare Health Fair at the LOEL Senior Center in Lodi.

“Last year, I had a real problem. I had to go off my cardiac medicine.” When King first became a Medicare beneficiary at age 65, she made the tough decision to forgo her heart medication because of the high cost.

But on Thursday, after consulting with student pharmacists from the Medicare class at University of the Pacific’s Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, King is looking forward to Jan. 1 when the new Medicare Part D drug plans kick in.

“That’s when I’ll be able to get back on my medication,” she said, explaining that the student team was able to find a drug plan she could afford and that covered her specific needs.

Every year at this time, Medicare beneficiaries must grapple with changes the health insurance companies make to their drug plans. Those include some companies leaving the marketplace altogether, rising insurance premiums, and changes to the formularies — a fancy word for the list of medications the plans cover.

If your specific drug is not on the plan’s formulary, you have to pay the full cost. And those prices are skyrocketing this year, according to Rajul Patel, Pacific’s Medicare outreach program founder and professor of pharmacy practice.

Patel explained that many beneficiaries are finding this year if they remain with their current Part D plans they will see a premium increase of $30 to $40 a month.

“The patient’s out-of-pocket costs will be higher this year over last year,” Patel said. “They can raise prices and we can’t do much about it.”