A free service that sounds like a famous razor might just help trim your spending on prescription drugs. Here’s how SHICK (Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas) works:
Open enrollment for Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (known as Medicare Part D) begins Oct. 15 and continues through Dec. 7. During that period, eligible people can sign up for a prescription plan, switch from one plan to another or drop a plan. They can also make certain changes to Medicare Advantage Plans. This is for coverage that will begin Jan. 1.
Because there are so many different Part D plans offered by insurance companies – this year, there were 26 such plans, with monthly premiums ranging from $16.20 to $99.50 – SHICK was started to help people choose which one is best for them. The challenge of choosing is exacerbated by the fact that insurance companies sometimes change the type of drugs covered, amount of required co-pay and parts of plans from year to year.
“It’s so complicated, sometimes it’s overwhelming to people,” said Teresa Hatfield, a Sedgwick County Extension Agent. The goal of SHICK is to “find a plan that’s going to cover your medication at the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost to you,” she said.
In this area, SHICK is manned by trained volunteers who work out of K-State Extension Center offices in Sedgwick, Harvey and Butler counties, senior centers and other locations.
Last year, SHICK volunteers at the Sedgwick County Extension Center counseled about 3,500 people during the open enrollment period. They were able to help about 40 percent of those enroll in a cheaper plan that still covered their needs, for a total savings of about $2.2 million.
Meanwhile, SHICK volunteers coordinated by the Central Plains Area Agency on Aging helped 1,389 people, for a total savings of $525,353.
Hatfield warned that appointments with SHICK volunteers tend to fill up fast, but said that every effort will be made to help those who need it.
Here are some numbers to call if you are seeking help with your prescription plan:
Sedgwick County Extension Office (which also coordinates the SHICK program in Butler County), 316-660-0100 or 316-660-0126; Harvey County Extension Office, 316-284-6930; CPAAA, 1-855-200-2373. People with transportation issues can connect with SHICK volunteers by calling a number maintained by the Kansas Department on Aging and Disability Services, 1-800-860-5260. An online Medicare Plan finder is also available at medicare.gov.