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Reminding Seniors to Be Mindful of Medications

For seniors, October is a month in which medications – particularly prescription meds – will likely be on their minds. Not only is October national “Talk About Prescriptions Month,” but Oct. 15 marks the start of Medicare’s Annual Election Period during which beneficiaries can disenroll from, switch or enroll into a Medicare Advantage or Part D (prescription drug) plan. These are crucial subjects for seniors, so Health Net, Inc. (NYSE:HNT) is reaching out to Medicare recipients and sharing educational information about both issues.

Prescription precautions

Sponsored by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), “Talk About Prescriptions Month” is designed to maximize safety for those taking prescription medications. “According to NCPIE, it’s especially important for seniors to be informed, because 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries take prescription medications and as many as 55 percent don’t take them properly,” explains Virginia E. White, Pharm.D., FCSHP, senior vice president and chief clinical officer of Health Net Pharmaceutical Services, the pharmacy benefit management subsidiary of Health Net, Inc. NCPIE also reports that older patients tend to have multiple prescribing physicians, thus making it more difficult to track all of their medications and identify potential problems, such as drug interactions or improper doses.

“While medications are obviously designed to help rather than harm you,” White says, “serious complications can result if precautions aren’t taken.” To avoid such complications, NCPIE suggests that seniors take the following steps:

  • Talk to your health care providers, including your pharmacist, to make sure that you’re taking all of your medications properly. NCPIE notes that this is a crucial conversation, considering that 40 percent of seniors are unable to read prescription labels and 67 percent have difficulty understanding the prescription information they’re provided.
  • At least annually, schedule a “Medication Check Up” with your health care providers to review all medications, including supplements and herbal remedies, with an eye toward assessing potential drug interactions, dosage levels and if any of the medications are unnecessary. This is particularly important for older adults because, according to NCPIE, a recent survey of 17,000 Medicare beneficiaries found that two out of five reported taking five or more prescription medications.

Choosing a Part D plan – Consider the “four C's”

“Medicare prescription drug plans can offer a variety of benefit and premium options,” says Scott Kelly, chief Medicare officer of Health Net. “It is important,” he adds, “to select the plan that best fits your needs.” Toward that end, Kelly advises seniors to consider the “four C’s:”

  • Cost—It’s important to calculate any out-of-pocket costs. What will your monthly premiums be? Will you have a deductible or copayments? If you’re comparing comprehensive plans, which are medical plans combined with a Part D prescription drug plan? Don’t forget to tabulate the copayments and deductibles for doctor as well as hospital costs.
  • Coverage—Will you have access to a wide range of prescription drugs? There are drug plans that cover 95 or more of the top 100 drugs. If there are prescription drugs you currently take, or expect to take, make sure that they’re covered.
  • Convenience—Does the plan have an agreement with your favorite pharmacy? If not, you will be spending time traveling to different drugstores.
  • Customer Service—The people you speak with at the health plan should take the time to explain everything clearly and to answer any questions that you have. Did you find them helpful? Do they seem to understand your personal needs?

“It helps to contact the health plan directly,” observes Kelly. “They can help you determine the right mix of benefits and expenses for your needs, and this interaction also gives you the opportunity to ‘test-drive’ the company’s customer service.”

About Health Net

Health Net, Inc. is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net provides and administers health benefits to approximately 6.0 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as “Part D”), Medicaid, Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Health Net’s behavioral health services subsidiary, Managed Health Network, Inc., provides behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs to approximately 5.0 million individuals, including Health Net’s own health plan members. Health Net’s subsidiaries also offer managed health care products related to prescription drugs, and offer managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs.

For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Net’s website at


Health Net
Amy Sheyer, 818-676-8304

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