Senior Law Day covers tips on prescription drug plans

Even attorneys have difficult times understanding and informing people about the complex changes in the Medicare prescription-drug plan, said attorney James Michael Ratcliffe of the Seniors’ Law Program in Lihu’e.

Part of the reason is that, earlier this month, there were “massive changes in Medicaid eligibility,” he explained.

Even his mother, opting to stay with a familiar care provider, got caught up in the confusion that comes when no fewer than 37 companies all offer Medicare prescription-drug coverage.

The decision she made cost her hundreds of dollars in additional costs over another plan, her son explained.

Seniors need to do research, get their paperwork and other records in order, and learn as much as they can about the various plans, before making decisions, the attorney Ratcliffe said.

Compounding the seniors’ predicament is that some pharmacies away from Lihu’e and Kapa’a aren’t accepting many of the new Medicare prescription-drug plan cards and coverages, he explained.

Ratcliffe and James Pietsch, his O’ahu counterpart, will try to explain the intricacies of a very complex system to elderly Kauaians at Senior Law Day tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the Kaua’i Community College Performing Arts Center.

Ratcliffe admits they have their hands full as they attempt in three hours to explain the massive changes in Medicaid long-term-care eligibility rules, and walk the seniors through picking the correct Medicare drug card even if they have already chosen or been assigned a card.

Ratcliffe and James Pietsch, both attorneys working for nonprofit agencies, will struggle to advise seniors on how the ownership of a home over $500,000 may disqualify them from obtaining long-term-care coverage under the new law, Ratcliffe continued.

They will talk about the new rules which would virtually bar any senior from qualifying for Medicaid long-term-care coverage if he or she had transferred anything for less then fair market value for five years prior to applying for Medicaid coverage.

They will advise seniors how many annuity structures and balloon-payment investments which seniors were sold as protecting their assets may well do exactly the opposite under the new law.

Ratcliffe will walk the seniors through the Medicare prescription-drug plan, from the unique prospective of someone not wanting to sell them anything, he said.

Seniors will be advised of the pitfalls of choosing the wrong provider even through it might have had the best marketing, and how there is still time to save, in some cases, hundreds of dollars on drug costs a month by choosing the right plan for them.

He will then point them to officials with a government agency who will sit down with them and their particular prescriptions and find the best plan for each senior based on their particular needs.

Finally, Pietsch will be walking seniors through and distributing his 70-page, legal-survival manual for seniors “deciding what if,” covering legal matters versus estate matters.

Pre-enrollment is required to assure attendees of enough copies of written materials.

Enrollment forms may be obtained at the office of the Seniors’ Law Program, 4375 Puaole St., Suite A, Lihu’e, or at the Agency for Elderly Affairs in the county Offices of Community Assistance, at 4444 Rice St., Pi’ikoi Building, Suite 330, Lihu’e Civic Center.

There is a limit of 500 attendees.

Call 246-8868 for registration and more information.

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