HONOLULU — Thousands of Maui seniors on Kaiser Permanente’s Medicare Advantage plans will have to pay substantially higher premiums if they want to remain covered by the insurer next year.

Kaiser is discontinuing its “basic” and “enhanced” individual Medicare plans on the island to offer one combined plan. The changes, which take effect Jan. 1, require members to pay a monthly premium of $194. Maui members currently pay $38 for a basic plan and $180 for the enhanced plan, Hawaii News Now reported (http://bit.ly/2dGkoSN).

Big Island seniors will also see new rates, as Kaiser combines the “essential” and “essential plus” individual Medicare plans into a new plan with a $194 monthly premium. Residents are now paying $63 for essential plans and $202 for essential plus.

Robert Newell, of Maui, said he received a letter from Kaiser stating that his coverage would end Dec. 31, but he was still unsure whether he’d be able to remain with Kaiser or be forced to seek out a new provider.

“They could maybe tell you there’s still a possibility you can stay with Kaiser,” Newell said. “It won’t be on your same senior advantage basic, but you can still stay and they don’t indicate that, and you’re in shock.”

Kaiser is reassuring its Medicare members that they can join the new plan or find a different one.

“Everybody that’s currently a Kaiser Permanente member will be offered a new plan and that information should be in your mailboxes by Thursday or Friday at the latest,” said Kaiser Permanente Hawaii spokeswoman Laura Lott.

The higher premiums in 2017 come as a result of the rising costs of medical care, prescription drugs and other services, Lott said.

There are approximately 4,000 individual Senior Advantage members on Maui and about 3,900 on Hawaii Island. Residents of the two islands must complete paperwork to re-enroll, while Oahu Medicare members do not, according to Kaiser Permanente.

Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/