Medicare Weekly News for October 24, 2005

Media Relations: Tel: 202-326-1816

MEDIA ALERT

Medicare Agency Says Look for Important Handbook in the Mail
Medicare & You Booklet Provides Drug Plan Information

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has begun mailing Medicare beneficiaries a Medicare & You 2006 handbook. The handbooks are state specific and include a listing of the Medicare-approved prescription drug plans available in the beneficiary’s state.

The handbooks also explain the new benefit and how to enroll.

A number of plans will be available in each state. In Tennessee, for example, some 23 organizations are offering Medicare-approved drug plans. Medicare consumers will be able to choose a plan that meets their needs and budget. Every state (except Alaska), for example, will have a plan available with a monthly premium of $20 or less. All plans must meet Medicare’s requirements for providing access to medically necessary drugs.

There are two basic types of plans. Stand-alone prescription drug plans can be added to the traditional Medicare plan (which covers doctor and hospital services). Medicare managed care plans cover healthcare, with prescription drug coverage included.

Most people in Medicare have traditional Medicare (for example, going to any doctor they choose, with Medicare paying 80 percent of the cost). Some 14 percent of people in Medicare are enrolled in managed care plans, many of which have either added prescription drug coverage or brought their current drug coverage up to Medicare’s new standards.

Those with traditional Medicare can also opt to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan in which prescription coverage is inclusive.

Enrollment begins November 15. The benefit begins January 1.

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The state-specific versions of the Medicare & You 2006 handbook are available on the CMS Web site at .

Extra handbooks can be ordered by calling CMS at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or they can be downloaded from the CMS Web site at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/partnerships/

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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