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Published: 1/16/2006

Agencies ally to decipher Medicare drug plan

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN Wood County senior citizens who have been struggling with the complexities of Medicare s new prescription drug plan will soon have someone to turn to for help.

The Wood County Committee on Aging, Bowling Green State University, and Wood County Department of Job and Family Services are teaming up to have a BGSU intern available to work with seniors on the Medicare Part D enrollment process and assist with other questions about Medicare and Medicaid.

Jeff Gow, a senior in the gerontology program at BGSU, is being trained for the job. He will work out of the Job and Family Services building on East Gypsy Lane Road, although his office hours have not been announced.

Lynne O Neil, assistant executive director of the Committee on Aging, said the county s senior centers have been inundated with phone calls and visits from panicked seniors who are confused by the drug plan.

Their questions range from what do I do to how do I do it, she said, and then, will you please do it for me?

Medicare officials have set up a toll-free phone line, 1-800-MEDICARE, but it s difficult to get through, Ms. O Neil said. The other option they re given is to go online, but many senior citizens do not have computers.

They were then told to ask their kids for help, and the kids didn t know any more than they did, she said. It s terrible, especially if you re asking them to be electronically savvy and they don t even know what www means.

Under Medicare Part D, those who enroll pay an annual deductible of $250. Medicare then covers 75 percent of drug costs up to $2,250. After that, the coverage stops until the enrollee has spent an additional $2,850 of his or her own money. Once that threshold is met, Medicare will cover 95 percent of the remaining drug costs.

Each senior must choose a prescription plan, though, and that s where many get confused. Each plan varies by costs, options, and even the types of drugs that are covered.

Ms. O Neill said staff at the senior centers have been working with clients, and at times it can take up to two hours to complete an application.

Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said county commissioners met with the agencies recently to discuss plans for the intern to assist the county s seniors. Commissioners were pleased to see the organizations joining forces on the project.

Contact Jennifer Feehanat: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.



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