Medicare Weekly News for September 6, 2005

Media Relations: Tel: 202-326-1816

MEDIA ALERT

Medicare Writing Up Improved Prescription

Choices are up and costs are down. So says the Medicare agency about its new prescription drug benefit, which begins in January.

The drug coverage will cost less than originally expected, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The average premium has fallen to $32.20, down from $37. In every state except Alaska, there will be at least one plan with monthly premiums below $20 and, in some areas, significantly below $20. Also, in every state there will be plans offered with no deductible, or a deductible lower than the $250 under Medicare's standard plan. In every region there will be at least 11 stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans, and this does not include Medicare managed care plans that will be adding drug coverage to their other benefits. Medicare officials have also indicated that the range of drugs that plans will cover is shaping up to go beyond suggested guidelines and even more robust than what commercial plans and state prescription drug programs are offering now.

This translates into even more affordable drug coverage for people in Medicare than was previously estimated. More drugs will be available at lower cost.

All Medicare beneficiaries qualify to sign up for the drug coverage, regardless of how many medicines they take or pre-existing conditions they may have.

Signing up is voluntary. People in Medicare can begin comparing plans in October, which is when the plans will begin marketing. Enrollment begins this November 15. Open enrollment runs through May 15, 2006.

Right now, Medicare beneficiaries can prepare by making a checklist of the medicines (with dosages) they take, the pharmacies they use, and the prescription coverage they have, if any. This information will help beneficiaries decide later whether or not to sign up and, if they do decide to join, it will help them choose a plan that covers their drugs, uses pharmacies that are convenient, and is within their budget."

For additional information about the Medicare prescription drug benefit, beneficiaries can log onto www.medicare.gov , or contact a Medicare representative by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

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The Medicare Rx Education Network provides information and assistance with outreach and enrollment for the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit. The network, which includes 70 national organizations, is chaired by former U.S. Senator John Breaux. Members share an interest in educating Medicare beneficiaries about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit and work closely with the appropriate federal agencies to obtain up-to-date information to ensure that information disseminated by the network about Medicare Part D is factual and accurately conveyed, thereby pre-empting confusion about the benefit and equipping beneficiaries and their caregivers to make informed choices. By sharing information with each other about member organizations’ independent efforts, collaborating on activities, and identifying ways to work together, the network aims to eliminate duplication of efforts and maximize the effectiveness of outreach efforts. The network does not engage in legislative activities or take positions on pending legislative or administrative policies related to the Part D benefit and its implementation.

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