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Medicare’s prescription enrollment begins today

By Staff | Nov 15, 2008

Enrollment for Medicare’s prescription drug coverage program begins Saturday allowing thousands of Floridians to sign up for Part D coverage or make changes to their current plan.

This year’s enrollment period will last from Saturday until Dec. 31. The program was created in January 2006 to cover millions of Americans whose insurance plans lacked prescription coverage. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), there are 25 million people enrolled in Medicare Part D.

Medicare officials estimate that 400,000 seniors living in Florida are eligible for prescription coverage but aren’t enrolled. Similarly across the United States there are 6.6 million seniors who are also eligible but don’t have coverage.

“During the country’s current economic crisis, many seniors are cutting back and watching their spending more than ever,” said Mary Grealy, president of the Health Leadership Council. “That’s why this benefit is so important.”

Prescription coverage prevents many seniors from being forced to make a choice between prescription medicine and utilities or other necessities.

Health officials are asking seniors to take time to analyze their plans and make sure that they don’t need to be changed.

“We encourage people to take advantage of this time to review and evaluate their current plan. Plans and costs change, as do the prescription needs of seniors as they age,” said Grealy. “What may have been the best plan for someone a year ago, may no longer be the option that provides the best drug coverage at the best price.”

To qualify for Medicare a person needs to be over 65 or considered for the program because of a disability. They can choose to enroll for Part D individually or choose a comprehensive Medicare Advantage Plan. It also covers both generic and name brand medications.

“Unlike traditional government health insurance programs, Part D allows participants to select from a variety of private plans,” said Grace Marie-Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a non-profit specializing in free market ideas for health care reform. “In 2009, the average monthly premium for the standard plan will be about $28. That’s 37 percent lower than expected when the legislation was first passed.”

There are some changes to Medicare this year. Deductibles for prescription drugs will increase this year from $275 to $295, according to Jo Marshall, a volunteer from Servicing Health Insurance Needs of Elders. Marshall hosts information sessions on Medicare. The last information session will be at Health Park Medical Center at 10 a.m. on Nov. 17.

Medicare Today — a national group consisting of 400 national and regional organizations working to enroll seniors in prescription drug plans — recently released a study by KRC Research asking if seniors were satisfied with Medicare. It found that nine out of 10 seniors are “satisfied” with their coverage.

For more information, visit www.medicare.gov.