Buy a gift for a friend’s birthday. And last but not least, sign up for the new Medicare prescription drug program. Health Net, one of the nation’s largest publicly traded managed health care companies, has opened the nation’s first Medicare store at Fiesta Mall in Mesa.
The store, located on the lower level near Robinsons-May, opened earlier this week and already is a big hit with seniors, said Scott Ptacek, vice president of Medicare and business development for Health Net of Arizona.
“Given the response that we’ve had over just the first three days, we’ve already started talking about do we want to look at a store in the West Valley and do we want to look at a store maybe in Tucson as potential expansion later in the year,” he said.
“The East Valley was a place where we were really comfortable putting this first store. We’ve got a very strong provider network in the East Valley.”
Seniors can come into the store and sign up for Health Net plans to cover their health care costs, including prescription drug costs. They also are welcome if they just have Medicare-related questions, said Mark El-Tawil, president of Health Net of Arizona.
“We’ve been in Arizona a long time and we’ve had great success with the Medicare community here, so we wanted to expand our reach — find a way to reach new people who don’t know Health Net, who don’t know how to get their questions answered — and make this a place available to them,” he said. “To the extent that it meets people’s needs, we’re open to expanding it. You could call it a pilot program.”
About 30,000 Arizonans are enrolled in Health Net’s Medicare programs, while another 30,000 are enrolled in just its prescription drug program.
“I think that people are generally going to have questions about Medicare program changes that happened in 2006,” Ptacek said. “The new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit is something that not everybody has a complete grasp of yet. The most common questions we’re going to get are very specific about Part D: Do I have to sign up, when do I have to sign up by and what programs does Health Net have to offer.”
The store has extended hours to accommodate as many seniors as possible, he said.
“The mall opens at 7 a.m. for the mall walkers and the (stores open) at 10 a.m., but we’re opening our doors at 7:30 a.m. every morning and we’re not closing our doors until 9 p.m. when the mall closes,” Ptacek said.
“And on Sundays we’re going to maintain the noon to 6 p.m. hours that the mall has. So we’re here a lot of time, which gives people plenty of time to come in.”