Government Shutdown causes struggles in Medicare Part D Enrollment

Drug prices aren't being updated on the Medicare Part D website

POSTED: 04:51 PM EDT Oct 16, 2013    UPDATED: 05:46 PM EDT Oct 16, 2013 
Medicare Prescription Drug Plans affected by shutdown

While the government shutdown could end tonight, for many senior citizens, the damage has been done when it comes to enrolling for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program.

Yesterday, open enrollment for Medicare Part D began.

The problem, many of the people who work for Medicare in Washington were furloughed.

As a result, seniors trying to select their ideal drug plan are having to play a costly guessing game.

"Before when I walked out here, I knew everything, I knew down to the penny what I was going to pay, now, I don't have any idea," Susie Bishop said.

Bishop is like most seniors during open enrollment for Medicare Part D, she's making sure she gets the best bang for her buck.

"It was very different this year from every other year, because when I've come up here before they'd say this is this plan, this is exactly what you're going to pay and you would know down to the penny," she added.

Roanoke's Local Office on Aging is just as frustrated.

Everyday during open enrollment, it counsels seniors, walking them through the drug plan that is best tailored to them.

Drug prices change daily, and because of the shutdown, no one's home in Washington to update those prices on the Medicare website.

"We're trying to counsel people and help them make a serious decision about their medicare part d drug card and we're using information that was updated as of September 30th," Shannon Abell with the Office on Aging said.

Because the drug prices haven't been changed since the shutdown, experts are being forced to guess.

If they guess wrong and enroll a senior in a plan based on drug prices 15 days ago, it could cost seniors a lot of money they may not have.

Even if the shutdown does end, there's real concern that the Local Office on Aging won't be able to retroactively help seniors who have enrolled during the shutdown to get them the best plan.

Many senior advocacy groups are expected to ask the government for a Part D Enrollment extension when the shutdown does end.

It's important to remember that Medicare Part D Enrollment is different from enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.