Every October it’s the same story. “People are confused and they come in asking for help to enroll in Medicare. If we have time we help them, but most of the time we can’t,” says Kristin Walsh, local pharmacist.
October marks the period when those 65 and older can sign up for, or change, their Medicare prescription drug coverage. Maneuvering through the maze of options is extremely challenging and bewildering as there are more than 20 local plan options with varying costs and benefits depending on a particular medication regimen. Also, some seniors have limited computer skills and Internet access. And Medicare enrollment is conducted through a web-based portal only that may challenge the most computer-savvy person.
The CU Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) Student Chapter recently partnered with a State program (Centura Health LINKS-sanctioned by the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid) to train pharmacy students to assist community-based seniors choosing Medicare Part D (MPD) plans. The goal was to create, establish and implement an MPD student-volunteer program to help seniors enroll in Medicare Part D. Alumna and post doctoral fellow, Kelli Metz, PharmD, together with faculty member Anne Libby, PhD, and third-year pharmacy student Sara Velotta were instrumental in rolling out the program.
From Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, 2013 23 student volunteers counseled 65 clients by phone and in person. Spending approximately 30 minutes with each client, the students accessed the Medicare Plan Finder online tool, entered the client’s medications, and comparison shopped plans. The clients received a list of the top three plans based on annual premium or total annual cost to patient. In addition, the students informed clients of generic availability of drugs and possible savings associated with substitution and reviewed medications (under the supervision of a Registered Pharmacist) for therapeutic duplications, drug interactions, and incorrect doses. “I was so happy to get the help,” said a client from Lamar, Colo. “I was intimidated by the choices.” Another senior calculated that she would save over $300 month on a different plan!
According to Dr. Metz, “It was a great way to demystify Medicare Part D, reduce confusion and improve patient safety. It is so important for us to provide this service to our community.”