By Talbert Toole
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a proposal Monday night during their regular meeting to partner with Three Rivers Planning & Development District to offer a program to help senior citizens who utilize Medicare with prescription drug counseling.
The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) offers free assistance with Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan counseling during the open enrollment period from October 15 through December 7.
The program is used by counties to help those with Medicare determine the best prescription drugs. Three Rivers has served 1,206 people in the past four years and saved an average of $1,178 per person for a total savings of $1.42 million.
The partnership will allow Lafayette County to provide office space to Three Rivers.
Vernon (Randy) Kelley, executive director of Three Rivers, and Wade Holland, SHIP Medicare counselor, presented the proposal to the board.
“Anybody that’s got a Medicare drug plan can search for a cheaper plan,” Holland said. “If they find a cheaper plan, they can enroll in that.”
Three Rivers is based in Pontotoc, Mississippi, approximately 32 miles from Oxford. Kelley told the Supervisors many senior citizens in Lafayette County might not have accessibility to drive to Pontotoc to reach the program at Three Rivers.
Kelley said Three Rivers assisted 541 senior citizens with Medicare last year during the 9-week open enrollment period. By placing accessible program facilities in counties that lack them, such as Lafayette, the SHIP program could triple or even quadruple the number of citizens it assists.
“[SHIP] can save [Lafayette’s] constituents with no cost to the county,” Kelley said. “It’s just helping them choose what’s best. A lot of people do not understand they can only sign up once a year.”
The Three Rivers board unanimously approved the hiring of a special assistant who will assist Medicare patients in each county the program is placed during the enrollment period, according to Kelley.
The county’s role in the program would be to provide an office with a computer, a telephone and internet service. The assistant in each county will be employed for eight hours a day during the enrollment period, Kelley said. The assistant would be paid by Three Rivers.
Kelley also asked the county for its assistance in running advertisements regarding open enrollment.
“I think we will reach many, many more people,” Kelley said.
For more information on Three Rivers Planning & Development District, visit their official website.