Medicare Weekly News for November 1, 2005

Media Relations: Tel: 202-326-1816

MEDIA ALERT

Keep All Mail on Medicare’s Prescription Drug Benefit
Important Documents Being Sent

In the coming weeks, people in Medicare will continue receiving letters and information in the mail about Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. Beneficiaries should keep all the mail they receive pertaining to the coverage, recommends the Medicare Rx Education Network. Some of the mail may be official documents about present drug coverage or low-income assistance and should be kept permanently.

Mail beneficiaries may receive includes:

Medicare & You 2006 handbook from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): The Medicare & You 2006 handbooks are state specific and include a list of the Medicare-approved prescription drug plans available in the beneficiary’s state. The handbooks also explain the coverage and how to enroll in a plan. 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/ .

• Letter from employer, union or Medigap: Those currently getting prescription drug coverage through a former employer, union or Medigap, will receive a letter from that plan that states whether the drug coverage is, on average, at least as good as (“creditable coverage”) Medicare’s “standard” prescription drug coverage. The comparison will simplify the enrollment decision. Those who have not received this letter, or believe they have misplaced it should contact their existing prescription drug plan provider in writing to request a new letter, or to ask if the letter has been sent out. This letter should be kept in the beneficiary’s permanent files.

• Low-income assistance form: The Social Security Administration has sent out letters, along with application forms, to people in Medicare who the agency thought might possibly qualify for low-income assistance. Beneficiaries can obtain a form from the Social Security Administration by calling 1-800-772-1213 or at their local Social Security office. Beneficiaries can also go to their local library and ask a librarian to help them take the form off the Social Security Web site at www.socialsecurity.gov. Representatives from the local Social Security office can help locate any missing information and answer any questions. To find a local Social Security office, call Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116).

• Notification of eligibility for low-income assistance. The Social Security Administration has begun sending out letters to those who applied for low-income assistance with the drug benefit notifying them if they qualified. This letter should be kept in the beneficiary’s permanent files.

• Marketing Materials: Medicare prescription drug plan providers are sending marketing materials and information about their plans.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit’s six-month open-enrollment window is November 15 – May 15, 2006. Beneficiaries should keep all the mail they receive about the drug benefit in one convenient place so it is readily available when they sit down to consider selecting a plan or speak with a counselor.

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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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