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Nebraskans could save thousands of dollars during Medicare open enrollment

Nebraskans could save thousands of dollars during Medicare open enrollment

Volunteers with a local nonprofit group have been able to help seniors save hundreds — or in some cases thousands — of dollars during Medicare open enrollment this year.

Volunteers Assisting Seniors helps seniors review Medicare plans and find the one that best fits their needs, often saving them lots of money on prescription drugs.

One Omaha man will save more than $2,300 by switching plans, said Sue Fredricks, executive director of Volunteers Assisting Seniors. The man, who is in his 80s, recently was prescribed a new — and expensive — eyedrop medication. His current plan wouldn’t cover it. But volunteers with the group found a plan that would.

Last year, the group helped 1,200 people save a total of nearly $1.1 million, averaging about $895 a person.

Medicare open enrollment, which runs through Dec. 7, gives beneficiaries the opportunity to review their Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, also known as Part D.

If beneficiaries like what they have, they can keep those plans. But Fredricks said because plans change every year — changing premiums and copays and even dropping medications and pharmacies from their preferred lists — seniors should review their plans each year.

If a plan has made big changes, this is the time to look for another one, Fredricks said.

“People shouldn’t sleep through this window,” she said. “They should look at it just like you go to the dentist annually to get your teeth cleaned. It’s just something they need to get used to doing.”

Volunteers Assisting Seniors serves Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, Dodge and Washington Counties. It’s the Omaha-area office of the Nebraska State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

This year, the Omaha organization has offered its services in person and through virtual appointments. Everything will move to a virtual format after Thanksgiving, Fredricks said.

The volunteers have seen an increase in calls this year compared to last year. People may have to wait two to three business days before hearing back from the group.

Volunteers Assisting Seniors can be reached at 402-444-6617. The organization’s parent office in Lincoln, the Department of Insurance Resources, can be reached at 402-471-2841. Medicare, at 800-633-4227,or other SHIP groups around the state, at 800-234-7119, can help, too.

“Insurance is a confusing thing, and then you add a government spin on it,” Fredricks said. “Medicare has a ton of parts and pieces to choose from. It is daunting for people, and it’s the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter how educated you are, what your profession is, everybody’s confused. You’re not alone.”

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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