Sessions help patients sort out Medicare plans

It’s time to choose for the nearly 90,000 Medicare patients in Snohomish County.

Anyone signing up for Medicare for the first time, or those who want to review or make changes to their current health or prescription drug plans, can make those choices starting on Monday.

To help people make their decisions, the nonprofit Senior Services of Snohomish County has scheduled a series of 16 information sessions. The first three will be held next week in Arlington, Stanwood and Everett.

“Our hope is that folks really get the education and resources to manage their own changes or to do a checkup on their plans,” said Nathalie Gauteron, outreach manager for Senior Services of Snohomish County.

The choices can seem overwhelming, especially for adults signing up for Medicare plans for the first time, said Stephanie Marquis, a spokeswoman for the state Insurance Commissioner’s office.

“I remember when my mother turned 65,” she said. “It was like, ‘Calm down, you’ll be alright.’”

Part of the confusion is caused by what can appear to be an alphabet soup of letters associated with Medicare: Part A (hospital care) Part B (doctor and outpatient care), and Part D (the prescription drug plan).

Then there’s Medigap and plans to help pay for costs not covered by Medicare and the Medicare Advantage plans, or health plans run by private insurance companies.

After one Medicare Advantage health plan announced earlier this month it would drop its coverage next year, the insurance commissioner’s office received more than 400 phone calls, a one-day record, Marquis said.

“They called us the minute they got the letter and wanted to know what plan they could pick,” she said. “They had to wait until open enrollment, which starts on Monday.”

In Snohomish County, nearly 2,000 Medicare patients are being affected by various Medicare Advantage plans that will not be offered next year.

Gauteron said that Senior Services of Snohomish County also has received numerous phone calls from Medicare patients worried about such changes.

“We have a lot of folks calling with the anxiety of ‘My plan is leaving, now what do I do?’” she said.

Their health care coverage will remain in place through Dec. 31, she said. “We have plenty of time to help you get a new plan.”

Anyone who wishes to attend one of the free upcoming information sessions in Snohomish County must call in advance to register.

Attendees must bring their insurance card, a list of the medications and know the names of their pharmacy and medical clinic to be helped, Gauteron said.

Each person will get one-one-one counseling sessions to help them decide what changes, if any, they would like to make in their Medicare health care and prescription drug plans.

“It’s free, unbiased counseling,” Gauteron said. “We really hope to help with the information issues and to remind people that they have through Dec. 7 to do research and to make an educated choice on a plan.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486;

When and where

Here is the list of 16 day-long information sessions to help answer Medicare enrollment questions. The workshops are sponsored by the nonprofit Seniors Services of Snohomish County. A reservation is required to attend any of these events. Call Senior Information and Assistance at 425-513-1900 or 800-422-2024 to schedule an appointment time.

Oct. 16: Stillaguamish Senior Center, 18308 Smokey Point. Blvd., Arlington.

Oct. 17: Stanwood Senior Center, 7430 276th St. N.W., Stanwood

Oct. 18: Carl Gipson Senior Center, 3025 Lombard, Everett

Oct. 23: Ken Baxter Senior Center, 514 Delta Ave., Marysville

Oct 24: Edmonds Senior Center, 220 Railroad Ave.. Edmonds

Oct. 25: Lynnwood Senior Center, 19000 44th Ave W., Lynnwood

Oct. 29: Warm Beach Senior Community, Address: 20800 Marine Dr., Stanwood

Oct. 30: Mill Creek Senior Center, 15720 Main St., Suite 210, Mill Creek

Oct. 31: Camano Community Center, Address: 606 Arrowhead Rd., Camano Island

Nov. 1: Everett Holiday Inn, 3105 Pine St., Everett

Nov. 7: Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. S.W., Lynnwood

Nov. 8: Carl Gipson Senior Center, 3025 Lombard, Everett

Nov. 13: Snohomish Senior Center, 506 Fourth St., Snohomish

Nov. 14: Camano Community Center, 606 Arrowhead Rd., Camano Island

Nov. 16: East County Senior Center, 276 Sky River Parkway, Monroe.

Nov. 28: Edmonds Senior Center, 220 Railroad Ave., Edmonds

What to bring

A list of your prescription drugs including dosages, your current Medicare plan card and any letters you may have received from your insurance plan.

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