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In January 2006, Medicare began offering a prescription drug insurance program. As a result, nine out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries now have comprehensive prescription drug coverage.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit helps give peace of mind, including to those who currently aren't using many medications but could, at any moment, need treatment for acute, chronic or life-threatening conditions. It’s not uncommon for people in Medicare to experience changes in their quality of health and their prescription-drug needs. Medicare’s drug coverage is guaranteed to be there for them when they need it.

Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

Everyone in Medicare is eligible for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Those who have not already enrolled and do not have drug coverage that is as good as, or better, than Medicare’s drug coverage should give serious consideration to enrolling during the next open-enrollment period, which is November 15 through December 31, 2006.

Recent polls are showing that beneficiaries are satisfied and saving money with the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Medicare’s prescription drug coverage helps to pay for a wide array of prescription medications — both generic and brand name. Beneficiaries can save an average of $1,200 per year off of their prescription drug costs. Additionally, Medicare now covers more preventive services than ever before.

The benefit can be affordable for all who enroll. In fact, those with limited incomes have the opportunity to pay little or nothing to participate. Some beneficiaries have 100 percent of the cost of their drugs covered by Medicare.

Examine Your Health and Plan for 2007

Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan should examine their prescription drug coverage to ensure it continues to meet their needs. Seniors who are satisfied with their current Medicare prescription drug coverage will not have to take any action when the open-enrollment period begins November 15.

But those who wish to make a change will find new options with lower costs and more comprehensive coverage available for 2007. Consider the following when making a decision:

  • Cost: Will your premium and costs change in 2007?
  • Coverage: Do you need more comprehensive coverage in 2007?  Do you need a plan that provides for coverage in the gap?  Will the prescription drugs you take be covered by your plan in 2007?
  • Convenience: Is your local pharmacy in the plan’s network?

Open Enrollment

The open-enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug benefit begins November 15, 2006, and lasts until December 31, 2006. Medicare beneficiaries who wish to change prescription drug plans will have six weeks to enroll in a new plan. Those who are eligible for Medicare but did not enroll previously may also enroll at this time. Beneficiaries are encouraged to enroll or switch plans before December 8 to allow for processing. This will ensure that beneficiaries have their new prescription drug card in hand to fill prescriptions in early January. Medicare beneficiaries can find out more through the following ways:

  • Medicare will offer the options of enrolling on-line ( www.medicare.gov ) and by phone (1-800-MEDICARE).
  • Various community partners will hold informational events for beneficiaries.

What Can I Do to Help People in Medicare Understand the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit?

Everyone who has a family member or a friend in Medicare has a vital role to play in helping educate first-time beneficiaries about the Medicare drug benefit, and assisting those enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan to re-examine their prescription drug coverage to ensure it continues to meet their needs. Call 1-800-MEDICARE or go on-line at www.medicare.gov .

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