Harrison School of Pharmacy Offering Medicare Part D Counseling

Group of five students stand together

October 21, 2019

AUBURN, Alabama – Counselors from the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy and the Alabama State Health Insurance and Assistance Program, or SHIP, are scheduling joint counseling sessions in Alabama to assist those with the Medicare Part D prescription plan.

The counseling sessions are particularly important this year as internet resources for Medicare enrollment have changed, which could make navigation particularly difficult for enrollees.

The joint counseling sessions will run from Oct. 23 through Dec. 4 with stops in Opelika, Phenix City, Tuskegee and the Mobile area. Open enrollment for Medicare Part D runs from now through Dec. 7. At the counseling sessions, beneficiaries will receive unbiased and personalized information from certified counselors to help them select the plan that is best for them.

In addition to upgrading Medicare Plan Finder, CMS has redesigned the Medicare.gov homepage and refreshed the personalized MyMedicare.gov portal to create a more seamless, easy-to-navigate, personalized online experience for people with Medicare.

While the changes implemented are designed to improve the open enrollment process, those accustomed to the legacy plan finder may need assistance in navigating and finding information related to them.

“Under the new Medicare Plan Finder, beneficiaries will not be able to use the Medicare number and save the search history using a Drug List ID generated through the legacy Medicare plan finder,” said Dr. Salisa Westrick, the program’s coordinator and head of pharmacy’s Department of Health Outcomes Research and Policy. “Instead, Medicare beneficiaries need to go to the mymedicare.gov portal and create a username and password in order to be able to save the search history and enroll in a plan.”

The counselors at the session include students from the Harrison School of Pharmacy, as well as staff from the Alabama State Health Insurance & Assistance Program.

The estimated average savings for a Medicare beneficiary who attended an Open Enrollment event in a previous year was nearly $1,300 per year, if the least expensive plan was chosen.

“Along with the enrollment counseling, we can help beneficiaries determine if they are qualified for a subsidy program,” said Westrick. “If qualified, beneficiaries would receive additional financial assistance to help cover out-of-pocket costs".

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and for some younger adults with permanent disabilities and medical conditions. While Medicare prescription drug coverage, known as Part D, is optional, many Medicare beneficiaries enroll in either stand-alone prescription drug plans, or PDPs, or integrated managed care plans that have prescription drug coverage, or MA-PDs.

Medicare currently provides prescription drug coverage for over 43 million Americans and, of those, 763,251 reside in Alabama, according to CMS. Specifically, stand-alone PDPs and MA-PDs enroll over 341,944 and 421,307 beneficiaries, respectively.

Counseling sessions are offered at no cost to patients. Beneficiaries should bring a list of prescription medications, their Medicare card, as well as other insurance cards. To assess whether they are qualified for subsidy programs, beneficiaries should know their gross income per month. More information can be found online at www.alabamamedicarehelp.org/.

Separate from the joint counseling sessions between the pharmacy school and SHIP, Westrick has launched a research project with Dr. Wisuk Kwon from Auburn’s College of Human Sciences to observe how Medicare beneficiaries use the new Medicare Plan Finder and challenges they encounter with the new website. Because the new Medicare Plan Finder is significantly different from the legacy plan finder, feedback from the beneficiary’s perspective can help inform CMS and other agencies that are assisting Medicare beneficiaries in plan selection.

Medicare beneficiaries who have Medicare prescription drug plans are invited to participate in this research study. If interested, call 334-844-4011 or email aumedi@auburn.edu to inquire and enroll.

Medicare Events

Oct. 23 – Phenix City | 10 a.m. -1 p.m. ET | Goodwill Center
Oct. 23 – Grand Bay | 3-6 p.m. | Little Rock AME Zion Church
Oct. 30 – Opelika | 9 a.m. -12 p.m. | Opelika Sportsplex
Nov. 6 – Phenix City | 10 a.m. -1 p.m. ET | Goodwill Center
Nov. 6 – Bayou La Batre | 3-6 p.m. | Boat People SOS
Nov. 12 – Opelika | 4 -7 p.m. | Lee-Russell Council of Governments
Nov. 13 – Tuskegee | 9 a.m. -12 p.m. | Tuskegee Municipal Complex
Nov. 23 – Opelika | 9 a.m. -12 p.m. | Lee-Russell Council of Governments
Dec. 4 – Opelika | 10 a.m. -3 p.m. | Lee-Russell Council of Governments


About the Harrison School of Pharmacy

Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. The School’s commitment to world-class scholarship and interdisciplinary research speaks to Auburn’s overarching Carnegie R1 designation that places Auburn among the top 100 doctoral research universities in the nation. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit http://pharmacy.auburn.edu.

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Last Updated: October 18, 2019