STOCKTON — The evidence is in: Medicare beneficiaries who attended one of University of the Pacific’s Part D drug plan health fairs during the past 11 years saved an average of $1,049 annually on their out-of-pocket prescription medicine costs.

In total, Pacific’s student pharmacists who volunteer to assist seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries during Part D open enrollment between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7 have saved area residents almost $7 million to date by helping them find the best drug plan for their individual needs at the lowest cost.

During open enrollment this year, the student pharmacists — under the supervision of licensed pharmacists — will hold eight free Medicare Health Fairs throughout San Joaquin County to assist beneficiaries in selecting one of the 25 drug plans available to them.

Beneficiaries with a drug plan already should know that the insurance companies change their plans every year. Those changes include the list of drugs covered by the plan, the monthly premium and how much you pay at the pharmacy for your prescriptions, or your co-payment.

“Last year, we helped a woman who was paying $1,600 a year. We were able to find something for her at $400 a year,” said Joseph Hashim, a second-year pharmacy major at Pacific’s Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences who is serving as a spokesman for the health fairs.

“Every year, we are able to bring it down a little for people, especially people who really need it.”

Hashim, 28, hails from Potomac, Maryland, and aspires to become a community pharmacist so he can have direct contact with patients.

Many of the people assisted at the health fairs may have a language barrier, they’re confused by Medicare’s online selection process, they don’t have family members to help them navigate the process or their family members are just as confused and can’t help.

“There are many people with no computer or their son or daughter just don’t know what to do, leaving them with a ridiculous amount of issues. We try to act like the family for our patients. Think of us as the younger son or daughter who is supposed to be helping you out on this stuff,” Hashim said.

In addition to assisting with Part D open enrollment, the fairs also offer free health screenings for a variety of conditions including anemia, anxiety testing, asthma/COPD, blood pressure, bone density, cholesterol, depression, diabetes, falls risk assessment, memory and sleep disorders.

High-dose flu vaccines will be available for seniors while supplies last, as well as standard flu vaccines and Tdap, Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13 vaccines. A new vaccine for shingles also may be available. Called Shingrix, it is considered more effective than the previous vaccine but it requires two shots within two to six months apart.

Recognizing that many seniors are taking opioids such as Norco, Vicodin or OxyContin for chronic pain on a daily basis — and understanding the risks associated with those medications — the students will be distributing up to 200 doses of Narcan nasal spray for use in the event of an overdose that typically stops a patient’s breathing.

Each dose costs an estimated $200 to $300 and is made possible by a partnership between the pharmacy school and San Joaquin County Public Health Services. Funding was provided by the California Department of Public Health.

One of the most popular aspects of the health fairs is medication therapy management. Patients who bring their meds in will get them reviewed, learn why they are taking them and be assured that they are safe to take together. At the same time and new this year, the pharmacy students will review patient’s lab values for those who bring in test results.

Should severe drug-related problems be found, beneficiaries’ doctors will be notified. In past years, more than 850 severe problems were detected.

Those planning to attend a Medicare Health Fair should bring their Medicare card, all medications and a copy of their most recent lab values for review. For help with a Medicare Part D drug plan and/or a complete drug review, call the phone number listed with each event to make an appointment:

• Oct. 18: 1 to 6:30 p.m. at LOEL Senior Center, 105 S. Washington St., Lodi; (209) 369-1591.

• Oct. 20: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy, 757 Brookside Road, Stockton; (209) 946-7658. This sponsored event is known as the Dr. Mariano Que Memorial First Annual Medicare Health Fair (Operation Bigay Lunas).

• Oct. 26: 1 to 6:30 p.m. at Tracy Community Center, 950 East St., Tracy; (209) 831-6240.

• Nov. 3: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bethany Home, 1350 Nikkel Way, Ripon; (209) 253-5128.

• Nov. 6: 1 to 5 p.m. at Sierra Vista Homes, 2436 S. Belleview St., Stockton; (209) 460-5085. Ask about free transportation to this event.

• Nov. 9: 1 to 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 3409 Brookside Road, Stockton; (209) 951-8545.

• Nov. 15: 1 to 6:30 p.m. at Hutchins Street Square, Kirst Hall, 125 S. Hutchins St., Lodi; (209) 333-5550.

• Nov. 18: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at O’Connor Woods, 3400 Wagner Heights Road, Stockton; (209) 956-3400.

For general information regarding Pacific’s Medicare Health Fair, visit go.pacific.edu/medicare. For questions, contact (209) 910-3784 or medicareclinics@pacific.edu.

 

Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or jgoldeen@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/goldeenblog and on Twitter @JoeGoldeen.