News Local/State

Health Care Advocacy Group Provides Assistance With Medicare Signup


Champaign County Health Care Consumers Facebook Page

When it comes to signing up for Medicare, the different components can be confusing for some. But a health care advocacy group in Champaign wants people to know they’re here to help.

People 65 and older can sign up for Medicare, a federal health insurance program that covers about 80 percent of out-of-pocket medical costs.

Part A is free for most people and covers hospital care. But Part B, which covers doctors’ services, and Part D, which covers prescriptions, come with monthly premiums and deductibles that can be unaffordable to many people.

Claudia Lennhoff is the executive director of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers. She said many people are unaware of programs that provide financial assistance for those who qualify based on income and financial need.

The Medicare Savings Program is a cost-sharing program run by the state of Illinois, which can provide up to $1,608 a year in savings for Medicare expenses. The Extra Help Program provides assistance with the costs of Medicare prescription drug coverage and co-pays.

“And that makes a huge difference,” Lennhoff said, “because a lot of times people get sticker shock when they go to the pharmacy, especially around the beginning of the year” before they’ve met their deductible.

Lennhoff said she’s seeing more people choose not to sign up for Part B and Part D coverage, citing concerns over out-of-pocket costs. But she said they may regret the decision if they become ill.

“Years later, they might end up getting a cancer diagnosis,” she said. “And the cost of the care is beyond their reach, and they’re really facing a crisis at that point in time.”

Lennhoff’s organization is launching the Medicare Education, Enrollment, and Advocacy Project. She said she’s eager to partner with community groups to equip people with resources and information about Medicare.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman