Sail Safely Through Medicare Open Enrollment With S.H.I.P.

prescription drug

Submitted by Annette Morrison, M.S., CRS-A/D


Tom put on his turn signal and pulled onto the shoulder of the road. As the officer approached his driver’s side window, he pressed the button to roll down his window and allow the officer to talk to him.

“Can I see your license, registration and proof of insurance, please?” Asked the officer.

As he strained to open his glove compartment to pull out the document, he noticed a tingling in his arm. He reached to grasp the plastic holder where he kept his insurance card and current registration, but his hand did not seem to be working for him. He said as much to the officer, but what he heard coming from his mouth was garbled.

This startled him. As he turned back, the officer’s flashlight paused on Tom’s face and right away he knew something was wrong. Tom was slurring his speech. The officer asked him if he felt okay to which Tom replied, “Noh, noh whilly.”

“Have you been drinking?” The officer questioned.

“Noh,” replied Tom.

“Please step out of your vehicle.” The officer asked, as he was intending on administering a sobriety test. As soon as Tom tried to step out, he collapsed forward onto the road. He tried to push out his arm to catch himself but he suddenly couldn’t feel his arm any more.

Two weeks ago, Tom stopped taking his blood thinning medication. As the ambulance lights approached, Tom had a moment of clarity and thought, “…great. I’m going to die because I couldn’t afford my blood thinner.” He had been drowning in the costs of his medication. It had gone up so much that he could no longer afford the copay. He hadn’t felt bad since stopping, until tonight.

Tom isn’t alone. In a 2021 AARP survey of registered voters age 50 and older, nearly one-fifth (19 percent) said they had not filled a doctor’s prescription in the past two years, with the most common reason being that they could not pay for it.   It has forced our older populace to become creative in managing—or not managing—their healthcare. Common coping strategies are to ask their doctor for a generic prescription (instead brand name drug) or for samples, to not take as much of the drug (decreasing its therapeutic value), or to try to order medicines from Canada or other countries. Many countries do not have the strict production requirements of the USA’s FDA. As healthcare costs escalate, more seniors are learning this is also their battle.If you find yourself in Tom’s situation—rather than stopping your medication—reach out for the life-saving help available to you: S.H.I.P.

S.H.I.P. stands for Senior Health Insurance Program, an Illinois Department on Aging Service that trains Counselors to help find solutions to insurance needs—including affording prescription drugs.

Tom never did this, assuming that as health costs rose over time, he had to just take the financial hit—but he didn’t. Many Prescription Drug Plans actually reduced their monthly premiums from 2021–2022 and some Medicare Advantage Plans have a zero-dollar premium. Prescription Drug Companies also change their preferred pharmacy network from year to year, so going to a different pharmacy can save you of thousands of dollars. They change what medications they will cover and what tier those medications are on. But how do you find all of this out?

The best way to make sure you are in the worthiest plan for you is to make an appointment with a SHIP Counselor during Open Enrollment. Every year Medicare holds Open Enrollment from October 15 – December 7th. During this time Medicare A & B beneficiaries can change their Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan. CCSI Case Coordination LLC has SHIP Counselors to make sure you have the latest information on what plan is the best for you. Tom never made an appointment or questioned his options. The stroke was not the tragic end of Tom’s life, but it was a wake-up call to manage his health care needs better. If you are struggling to pay for your medications, NOW is the time to reach out for help from your local S.H.I.P. Counselor.


To make your appointment with a SHIP Counselor, contact CCSI Case Coordination LLC at 309-661-6400. We are located at 3601 G.E. Road, Suite 2, Bloomington, IL 61704. Donations for services are accepted but no one is ever denied assistance based on the inability to pay. Funding provided through CCSI, ECIAAA and IDOA.


For additional informative and inspirational articles, visit 50 Plus News and Views Bloomington/Normal online edition today.

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