September 28th, 2021
George Wojdacki calls himself the “piece of cheese at the end of the maze,” the guy you reach after bumping into walls trying to understand your Medicare benefits.
Wojdacki, a certified Medicare counselor who volunteers with the Area Agency on Aging 1-B’s Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP), has saved a lot of money for a lot of seniors who would otherwise ignore notices of changes in their benefits.
Last year, he and some 60 other volunteers saved more than $1 million for hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries by moving them into prescription plans that worked better for their budget and health care needs.
With Medicare Open Enrollment approaching – the period runs from October 15 – December 7 and is generally the only time of year when people may change their Part D plans without penalty—the Clinton Township senior gets even busier. That makes him happy. (You may also make changes to your Medicare Advantage coverage for 2022 during this period, although there is a second Open Enrollment period for Advantage plans—from January 1 to March 31, 2022.)
“You see the benefit of what you’re doing then and there. You also develop a relationship with people you look forward to seeing every year,” Wojdacki, 73, says.
John H. of Marysville is one of his clients. They work by phone, with Wojdacki sending documents by mail.
“I’ve been happy with the help,” says John, 80. “He understands my situation – I’m single – and the medications I take and the doctors I see. The older I’ve gotten, the more important it’s become for him to explain prescription programs for each company.”
John, like all of us, is bombarded with TV commercials asking Medicare beneficiaries for their business.
“It’s so much easier and convenient to use someone as knowledgeable as George,” he says.
It’s also free–and unbiased. MMAP counselors are not paid to sell plans but to help beneficiaries find the very best for their situations.
“We always say we don’t sell insurance and we’re not licensed to sell insurance. We don’t get a commission. What we get is satisfaction knowing people are in the plan that makes the best sense for them. That’s our job,” says Shari Smith, manager of MMAP.
With Wojdacki’s help John was able to avoid a $300 increase in the cost of asthma inhalers.
Because of Covid, MMAP counselors will conduct sessions remotely during Open Enrollment. Appointments are available between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and last up to 1 ½ hours. A link/phone number will be sent when an appointment is made by calling 800-803-7174.
Folks with Medicare Part D (prescription drug) or a Medicare Advantage (Part C) often don’t open the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) that hits their mailboxes in September. The ANOC summarizes coverage and price changes (if any). It is usually mailed with the Evidence of Coverage, which digs deeper into the details.
It would be wise to take a look—or sign up for no-cost, unbiased counseling with a certified Medicare counselor.
“If you don’t read the ANOC and Evidence of Coverage and something changes, you can really have issues,” says Shari Smith, manager of the agency’s nonprofit Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP).
MMAP counselors offer year-round Medicare counseling, but Open Enrollment (Oct. 15-Dec. 7) is a period when Medicare beneficiaries who have a prescription drug plan may change to another plan without penalty.
Those without a drug plan and Medicare newbies may also want to check in with a MMAP counselor to get help understanding and enrolling in the plan that best fits them.