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Crisis for local seniors

(A group of seniors left out in the cold)…And it is getting expensive.

At the end of 2014, the Easy Choice Health Plan withdrew from the Imperial Valley market. This created an immediate crisis for about 5,000 seniors. Gary Wyatt, Director of Intergovernmental Relations with the County, told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that Easy Choice sent a letter to the seniors affected by their decision to withdraw. Wyatt said the letter indicated that Molina Healthcare would be offering an alternative Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan, known as MAPD. The letter, which was sent without the knowledge, participation, or approval of Molina Healthcare, created the perception that a solution was near. Wyatt said unfortunately, no solution to the MAPD Plan crisis has appeared and the affected seniors are suffering the consequences. Wyatt said the problem for the affected seniors is that they qualify for Medicare coverage, but they do not qualify for Medi-Cal. As a result, they have no MAPD Plan, and they must find their own coverage, at a cost of $250 to $450 per month, or pay out of pocket for the 20% co-pay that would have been covered by their prescription drug benefit. Many of these seniors receive an income of about $1,200 per month. To afford the extra cost, they have to decide to cut something from their monthly expenses. That includes reducing their food, forgo some of their medication, depend on family for help, or whatever they need to do to secure the medications they must have. Wyatt says this has created an immediate, on-going crisis for thousands of seniors. The Supervisors have agreed to enlist the help of the local political representatives, and they said Tuesday they would schedule a meeting with the Molina family directly to try and convince them to add the MAPD in the coverage they offer in the Imperial County. Supervisor Jack Terrazas will lead the talks with Molina.