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Medicare clients are advised to scrutinize plans

By Staff | Nov 29, 2008

Medicare officials and senior citizen advocates continue to spar over changes in 2009 Medicare Part D premiums and advocates stress that participants keep an eye on their plans. The open enrollment period began on Nov. 15 and runs until the last day in December.
According to a report released by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, an organization that advocates on behalf of low-income elderly and disabled people, changes in next year’s premiums could become expensive for seniors or result in a disruption of service.
“We are trying to get the word out now to help beneficiaries avoid a disruption in access to their medications,” said Kevin Prindiville, a staff attorney for the National Senior Citizens Law Center.
The center’s report states that some 25 percent of patients enrolled in the Low Income Subsidy, a program that provides assistance to 9 million low-income seniors, will no longer see their plans fully covered.
In the Low Income Subsidy program patients receive a full benefit if they enroll in plans that are below Medicare’s yearly cap, although the program is administered privately so premiums change every year.
As a result some will find that they’re plans do cover quite as much as before.
Medicare officials will automatically reassign some seniors into other programs because of plan changes, but with rising costs the new plans may not entirely cover a patient’s medication.
“Everyone who receives premium assistance from Medicare for their Part D benefit should make sure that the subsidy will continue to cover their plan premiums and that their plan will continue to cover their prescriptions,” said Prindiville.
Other organizations describe the program as highly beloved.
Medicare Today, a national partnership of 400 organizations, said nine out of 10 seniors living in Florida are satisfied with their Part D coverage. Furthermore, the organization reported that 400,000 seniors statewide are eligible for the program but aren’t enrolled.
Across the United States there are 25 million people enrolled in Medicare Part D and in Florida there are approximately 1.8 million.
Representatives of Medicare Today point out that the elderly and disabled are offered many choices through Part D’s flexible options that allow seniors to choose a plan that best suits their needs. Until the program was created in 2006, many seniors didn’t have any prescription coverage, they said.
The recent survey by Medicare Today indicated that 86 percent of participants found their co-payments affordable, 85 percent said the same about their premiums and 71 percent said the plan lowered their overall prescription costs.
On the other hand, the report from National Senior Citizens Law Center said that last year many participants in Low Income Subsidy were negatively affected by plan changes. The number of Low Income Subsidy Plans dropped 50 percent in 2007 and will decrease by another 40 percent next year.
“The current Part D system and its lack of stability places too heavy a burden on beneficiaries, many of whom are ill, do not speak English as a first language, or are simply overwhelmed by the complexity of the choices before them,” said Hector Javier Preciado, health policy director at the Greenlining Institute.