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The following is a list of the major changes for 2018 we will see in our area. There will be three Medicare Advantage companies to choose from, with seven different plans available. There will be 23 prescription drug plans to choose from. One new plan has been added and two plans are available again.

The Extra Help low-income subsidy will continue to provide financial assistance to folks who meet the income and asset criteria. The Big Sky Rx Program, a state-funded prescription drug plan premium assistance program, is currently under discussions regarding the Department of Health and Human Service’s budget cuts. If the cuts go forward, this entire program will be cut and will no longer provide the $34 premium assistance to those who have qualified for the program.

It is VERY important that you verify that your medications are appropriately covered by your coverage in 2018.

Changes to Medicare D

New Plan: Express Scripts Medicare-Saver.

Plans available again in 2018: Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure; Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure Extra.

Changes to Medicare Advantage plans

Blue Cross Choice Plus and Choice Premier Medicare Advantages plans will no longer be available in Montana in 2018. Blue Cross will be notifying their clients of their options by mail. It is important to keep your notification letter. Blue Cross will have two new plans for 2018 but you will NOT be enrolled in them because you have a current Blue Cross Medicare Advantage plan. If you are in a current Blue Cross Medicare Advantage plan and do nothing, then starting Jan. 1, 2018, you will return to original Medicare and will no longer have prescription drug coverage. You are able to enroll in any of the 2018 Medicare Advantage plans before Dec. 31, 2017. Since you are losing this insurance through no fault of your own, you also will have a second option to enroll in a Medicare Supplement for 2018 without any medical questions increasing your premium costs. If you choose a Medicare Supplement you will need a separate Medicare D plan for your medications. After Jan. 1, 2018, you will have until Feb. 28, 2018, to get enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or a Medicare Supplement.

It is important to check your medications availability and your medical co-pay costs with your existing Medicare Advantage plan before you commit to your coverage for 2018.

Please see an insurance agent to see if this is the right choice for you.

In Yellowstone County, Humana will have one local PPO plan, one local HMO plan and one local HMO Special Needs Plan. Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Choice will have two local PPO plans. PacificSource will have one local HMO plan and one local HMO Special Needs Plan.

Do you have a question about Medicare or Medicaid that you would like answered. Please send your question to SHIP Program, c/o Adult Resource Alliance of Yellowstone County, P.O. Box 20895, Billings, MT 59104 or