Medicare deadline approaches

By Tannya Joaquin - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Seniors have to make an important decision by the end of the year.

December 31st is the deadline to choose Medicare prescription coverage for 2010.

Florenda Gutierrez has been on Medicare for nearly 20 years and complains that "it confuses me."

Confusion is common-- with so many choices.

According to Pamela Cunningham from Sage PLUS, "most Hawaii residents have about 23 options in health plans. Part D the drug plan they could have up to 43 options so it's very challenging."

Her office is fielding 100 questions a day from seniors like Gutierrez--

who are trying to master the Medicare maze.

"I'm after the prescription because i'm spending about 400 dollars a month for my prescriptions" explains Gutierrez.

She falls into a gap group.

She pays more out of pocket-- because her medicine costs more than her plan covers-- but less than the magic dollar amount required for catastrophic coverage to kick in.

Right now competing companies are actively trying to sway seniors with better offers.

"Anyone of Medicare age will be getting lots of advertisement from this health plan or another" says Dr. Rio Banner, AlohaCare Medical Director.

Dr. Banner stresses you should compare plans, and consult the Medicare manual for detailed information.

The manual is about half an inch thick.

That's a lot to cover-- with not much time left to decide.

Dr. Banner warns you should not wait until it's too late because there's a penalty if you don't sign up by the December 31st deadline.

A mistake many people make is picking a plan based on someone's recommendation.

There's not a "one size fits all policy."

Analyze your medical needs to find the right plan and if you have questions, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE for assistance.

You can also contact the Sage Plus office on Oahu at 586-7299.

Neighbor Islands can use this toll free number 1-888-875-9229.