News & Events
Senior PharmAssist Executive Director Gina Upchurch led a continuing education session on Oct. 15th to prepare pharmacists and pharmacy technicians for Medicare drug benefits in 2014. Gina examined the differences between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage products. More than 40 attendees received information about local, statewide, and federal resources that can help with Medicare Part D, including the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP). There was also an update on how health reform impacts Medicare and how pharmacists are getting involved in new clinical initiatives. For those who couldn't attend the pharmacy CE, Gina made the same presentation via webinar on Oct. 24th, in partnership with the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
On April 18th, the state Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) announced that Durham is the "SHIIP County of the Year." Senior PharmAssist is SHIIP's coordinating site in Durham County and was recognized for providing high-quality prescription and health insurance counseling to more than 1,300 beneficiaries from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013.
Senior PharmAssist Community Services Director Dyana Morgan, our SHIIP coordinator, accepted the award from Van Braxton, the new SHIIP Deputy Commissioner at the NC Department of Insurance. The award was announced at the NC Association on Aging Annual Training Conference in Raleigh. We thank SHIIP for this acknowledgment, and we are especially grateful to all the SHIIP-trained volunteers who help us provide individuals in Durham with face-to-face Medicare insurance counseling.
The objective, reliable information helps Durham Medicare beneficiaries make informed medical and prescription coverage decisions. This puts money back into individuals' pockets, prevents potential financial ruin by not having adequate medical and prescription coverage, and ensures access to care that can be critical to support health.
We will continue to work to improve the health literacy of all Medicare beneficiaries in Durham, and we simply cannot do it without terrific volunteers. Current Senior PharmAssist SHIIP volunteers are: Lynne Alexander, Shelley Beason, B.J. Boyarsky, Brittany Pierce, Winston Roberts, Joanna Simoni and Al Stone.
It pays - more than ever - to compare your options ANNUALLY for Medicare drug and/or health coverage. For those who want more details than we included in our first enews of 2013, here is the "unabridged" report on our results from Medicare's Annual Election Period (AEP):
During Medicare's recently completed AEP, we helped 865 individuals navigate their drug coverage and/or medical coverage options. Last year, we helped 804 seniors and people with disabilities during the seven-week election period (Oct. 15 - Dec. 7). Of the 865 individuals we helped, 588 compared their projected medication costs for 2013 if they were to stay in their current stand-alone Part D drug plan with the other 29 plan options.
For the fourth consecutive year, nearly 2/3 of beneficiaries who had a stand-alone Part D plan needed to switch coverage to save money. We helped "switchers" obtain an average projected savings of $676 on prescriptions for 2013 (vs. $547 last year). Those who had never received our help with sorting Part D plans achieved an annual projected savings of $897, with 81% needing to switch coverage! Part D savings figures do not include those we helped who had employer-sponsored coverage, were new to Medicare or had their drug benefits as a part of their Medicare Advantage plans.
This year, we were also able to provide more in-depth counseling because we have been working with local providers' offices to understand which Medicare Advantage plans they contract with in- versus out-of-network. This is critical information for individuals who want to ensure access to their doctors, hospitals, preferred home health agencies, etc.
Unique to Senior PharmAssist, our pharmacists "sign off" on all insurance counseling appointments and intervene when they discover real or potential medication-related problems, such as duplicate therapy, and when they find other cost-saving measures, e.g. therapeutic substitutions or drug company assistance programs. We hope to calculate the financial impact of some of these interventions in the future.
Helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate drug and health plans is a win-win-win proposition. It is great for patients; significant savings can be a lifeline for those who regularly make tough financial decisions about basic necessities and struggle to remain independent. Providers benefit because we help ensure their patients have health coverage they accept - so providers get paid! And the community-at-large is better off because "uncompensated" sick-care weighs on us all financially (through cost-shifting to those with insurance) and because it diminishes the quality of life for our neighbors.
We are very appreciative for the volunteer insurance counselors - many with the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Programs (SHIIP) - who helped Senior PharmAssist stretch even further during the 2013 Medicare AEP. Clearly, our insurance counseling mantra - IT PAYS TO COMPARE - is alive and well in the New Year!
Senior PharmAssist hosts quarterly meetings of the Durham Medicare Rx Network. In addition to our program, this partnership of front-line providers includes staff at the Durham Center, the Department of Social Services, the local Social Security office, Lincoln Community Health Center, discharge planners and social workers at the local hospitals, and others.
To learn more about the Network or future meeting dates call (919) 688-4772 or emaii us at firstname.lastname@example.org.