Medicare Outreach Program

Seven Pharmacy Studnets and a Professor Looking at a Computer

The Medicare drug benefit is offered through stand-alone prescription drug plans (PDPs) and Medicare Advantage prescription drug (MA-PD) plans that cover all Medicare benefits including medications. Under Medicare Part D, private insurance providers offer a wide range of prescription drug plans that vary in terms of costs and coverage. There are many plans available for beneficiaries to choose from; the typical Medicare beneficiary in Alabama has a choice of several special needs plans (SNPs), 30 stand-alone PDPs, and multiple MA-PD plans (1).

Beneficiaries are encouraged to reevaluate plan options annually to ensure that their plan best meets their medication and financial needs. However, most beneficiaries did not switch plans in any of the recent enrollment periods (2). This could be due to multiple reasons, including knowledge deficits, perceived complexity of the plan selection process, and limited access to computers or the Internet (3-5). Therefore, one-on-one assistance to aid Medicare beneficiaries in comparing appropriate Medicare Part D plans is needed.

This Medicare Outreach Program is a partnership between Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn University and State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP is the key public organization that offers free and unbiased assistance to Medicare beneficiaries throughout the year. This program has been implemented since 2013. Each year, pharmacy students who are certified SHIP counselors volunteer to assist SHIP coordinators in several enrollment events in multiple counties.

In 2015, a list of enrollment events in Auburn and surrounding counties can be found by clicking HERE, and enrollment events in Mobile can be found HERE. Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to come to any of these events and bring a list of their current medications and gross income, as well as insurance cards.

  1. The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Fact Sheet. Kaiser Family Foundation, September 2014, available at
  2. Jack Hoadley, Elizabeth Hargrave, Laura Summer, Juliette Cubanski, and Tricia Neuman, To Switch or Not to Switch: Are Medicare Beneficiaries Switching Drug Plans To Save Money? Kaiser Family Foundation, October 2013, available at
  3. Polinski, J. M., Bhandari, A., Saya, U. Y., Schneeweiss, S., & Shrank, W. H. (2010). Medicare beneficiaries’ knowledge of and choices regarding Part D, 2005 to the present. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 58(5), 950–966.
  4. Jackson, E. A., & Axelsen, K. J. (2008). Medicare Part D formulary coverage since program inception: Are beneficiaries choosing wisely? The American Journal of Managed Care, 14(11 Suppl), SP29–35.
  5. Walberg, M. P., & Patel, R. A. (2009). Potential opportunity cost of neglecting to annually reassess Medicare Part D standalone prescription drug plan offerings: The price of contentment? Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 49(6), 777–782.


Last Updated: February 22, 2017