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November 14, 2012

Seniors can save money with medicare counseling from ULM pharmacy

Students and faculty from the University of Louisiana at Monroe College of Pharmacy are once again assisting local seniors at the Ouachita Council on Aging during the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Annual Enrollment Period.

The counseling sessions ensure seniors understand that to get the best coverage at the best price possible, seniors should pick a plan that meets their unique needs.

Dr. Michelle Zagar, ULM clinical associate professor and a certified geriatric pharmacist, has been assisting Medicare beneficiaries with plan selection and enrollment at the Ouachita Council on Aging since the Medicare Part D program began in 2006.

"We are only halfway through this year's enrollment period and the total savings to beneficiaries who have switched plans is nearly that of the entire enrollment period last year," said Zagar. "The total savings are approaching $30,000 for about 25 people, with individual savings ranging from $50 to $7,800."

While the enrollment period for counseling runs until Dec. 7, the team currently has appointments scheduled through the last week of November and cannot guarantee the availability of appointments as the deadline nears.

Thus, those interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should immediately contact the Ouachita Council on Aging Medication Management Clinic at 318-387-0535.

Medicare offers prescription drug coverage, Medicare Part D, to everyone with Medicare.

Each drug plan varies in cost, drugs covered and pharmacy acceptance.

Each year, the number of beneficiaries requesting assistance has grown, as plans change their cost structure and drug formularies.

Two ULM fourth-year professional students, Bryan Bordelon of Eunice, and Tara Bostick of West Monroe, are completing an ambulatory care experience with Zagar at the Ouachita Council on Aging.

According to Zagar, the student pharmacists help enter patient information into the Medicare Plan Finder on the Medicare website and then schedule an appointment to meet with each beneficiary to evaluate their plan options and assist them with enrollment.

"With the extensive training the student pharmacists have at this point, we are able to assist more people than in years past," said Zagar.

"Medicare Part D is taught during the didactic portion of the professional pharmacy curriculum, so student pharmacists are able to apply this knowledge in their advanced pharmacy practice experiences."

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