CHAMPAIGN — Countless local state retirees turned away from an information meeting for state Medicare Advantage health plans will get another chance next week.
State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, said another meeting has been scheduled for the overflow crowd. It will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Vineyard Church, 1500 N. Lincoln Ave., U.
"We're hopeful that this new location will have better parking and people won't need to be turned away, but there are other meetings scheduled throughout East Central Illinois and we encourage people to find one they can attend," he said.
Traffic quickly jammed around the Illinois Terminal building in the heart of downtown Champaign for a 9:30 a.m. Friday meeting scheduled to walk state retirees through application details for their new Medicare Advantage plans.
Many who managed to find parking were turned away because the two reserved meeting rooms were full, but many others stuck around and argued with an apologetic Frerichs, who was scheduled to speak.
"Obviously, we are very over-subscribed today," Frerichs said.
A second meeting scheduled at the same location for 1:30 p.m. Friday proved to be just as crowded.
Colleen Hart, 71, of Champaign, said she came an hour early to the later meeting and couldn't get in.
The two rooms reserved for the meetings at the Illinois Terminal building together have a capacity to hold 400 people, according to a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit.
About an hour into the morning meeting, the Champaign Fire Department turned up after someone called reporting the rooms were over-crowded, according to Capt. Dave Ferber. A check of both rooms showed the crowd size in each was fine, he said.
Edith Erdman, 65, of Urbana, was one of the unlucky ones who didn't get in.
The wife of a state retiree, she said she and a friend arrived about 15-20 minutes before the morning meeting started, got caught in traffic near the building and drove away after people leaving the terminal building warned them there weren't any seats available.
John Kindt, a University of Illinois professor emeritus, didn't take no for an answer.
"I came up a back staircase," he said, standing at the back of one meeting room.
In addition to complaints about the meeting logistics, people asked about the exclusion of Health Alliance Medical Plans from the state's Medicare Advantage choices. Health Alliance underbid competitors, but its bid was eliminated on a technicality.
"Can't we just go back to Health Alliance?" one man yelled from his seat.
Frerichs emphasized retirees shouldn't wait to enroll, because even if Health Alliance gets a chance to rebid for a Medicare Advantage contract (and obtains one) it wouldn't be available as a Medicare Advantage choice in time for the current enrollment period.
Enrollment runs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 13. for coverage taking effect Feb. 1, 2014.
Janice Bonneville, Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, walked retirees through applications and advised against waiting to file them the day before the deadline.
She also assured those retirees who now have Health Alliance and are concerned about losing their health care providers at Carle that they will have coverage available through the United HealthCare Medicare Advantage plan.
Carle has agreed to accept state retirees on that plan as a non-participating provider and will be reimbursed at Medicare-allowable rates, she said.
Carle spokeswoman Kelli Anderson confirmed later Friday that is correct. Retirees signing up with United HealthCare "will be accepted," as Carle patients, she told The News-Gazette.
Bonneville also said retirees signing up for the United HealthCare and Coventry Advantra Medicare Advantage plans they won't have to worry about paying Carle facility fees out-of-pocket, because the insurers will cover them.
Other meetings scheduled
Two other scheduled Medicare Advantage meeting dates in the area include:
— 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Tuscola Community Building, 122 W. North Central St., Tuscola.
— 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Grand Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, Eastern Illinois University, 600 Lincoln Ave., Charleston.