Harvey County extension agent Aaron Swank took a look at the number on his computer screen, smiled, and then went searching for words.
"I saw that (number) and said, 'Oh wow,' " Swank said. "There is no other word to describe it. It is just wow."
The numbers are impressive. More than 861 Harvey County residents will receive $454,078.16 in combined savings for the upcoming year thanks to the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) program.
Swank, Wenda Black with the Harvey County Department on Aging and six volunteers spent Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 helping senior citizens from Harvey County pick insurance plans.
SHICK representatives help seniors identify potential savings in their Medicare Part D options through a free counseling session. The program is run by Harvey County Kansas State Research and Extension with the support of the Harvey County Department on Aging.
"Seniors are not necessarily equipped to be bombarded with all the information they are being bombarded with," Swank said. "... What we saw is that these prescription plans are charging more, and covering less. What is happening is seniors are getting automatically enrolled in the previous year's programs."
Seniors may think they have one less thing to worry about — but their premiums and coverages can change. One plan, one of the least expensive, nearly doubled for premiums alone this year.
Last year, the Harvey County SHICK program met with 737 county residents and found more than $334,000 in savings.
In 2017, SHICK representatives visited with 742 people, finding $514,155 in savings. Both figures were jumps forward from the previous year, when 644 people reviewed their plan for a cumulative savings of $201,506.
"The numbers show that we really need this program," Swank said.
The dollars saved is formulated on the Medicare.gov website by comparing annual estimated costs of a person’s current prescription plan to the savings found by switching to a more cost-effective plan.
Volunteers help seniors evaluate plans based on premium costs — and out-of-pocket costs for their prescriptions.
It is the latter where Swank found some big savings.
"I helped a really great couple, they asked really great questions. I got to the gentleman's estimate, and his initial estimate, if he would have stayed on his current plan, was $52.60 (monthly premium) and his out-of-pocket expenses were $19,000," Swank said. "I thought, there has to be cheaper plan. Sure enough, we looked around and found a cheaper plan with his estimated expenses at $3,200. That means we are helping seniors and keeping seniors from being taken advantage of."