E-T Staff Report

Local partners of Medicare Today, a project of the Healthcare Leadership Council, joined together to encourage those eligible to take advantage of Medicare’s upcoming annual enrollment period for prescription drug coverage, which runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31.

This campaign is designed to encourage seniors to sign up for prescription drug plans under Medicare’s Part D program if they have not already done so, and to remind those seniors who are already enrolled in the program to review their current plan and compare it with other available plans.

While 86 percent of Texans with Medicare have prescription drug coverage, almost 400,000 are eligible for prescription drug coverage under Medicare but are not yet signed up.

“The options available to Texas‚ beneficiaries ensure that everyone eligible has access to an affordable plan that fits their needs,” said Angie Garcia of San Antonio, chief of staff for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “The enrollment period is a good time for beneficiaries to assess their needs and choose a plan that‚s right for them.”

Prior to the addition of Part D coverage, millions of Medicare beneficiaries had coverage for hospital and doctor expenses, but not prescription drug expenses.

“Medicare beneficiaries who have trouble paying for their medicines should take an especially close look at enrolling in a Part D plan,” said Garcia. “With the extra help available for beneficiaries with low incomes, there‚s no reason not to enroll.”

A survey released by Medicare Today and conducted by KRC Research found 90 percent of beneficiaries currently enrolled in a Part D plan reporting that they were satisfied with their plan, up 12 points since the beginning of the program in 2006.

In addition to high satisfaction rates, beneficiaries are reporting that they’re saving money under Medicare Part D plans, which have been available to beneficiaries starting in 2006. Eighty-six percent say their co-payments are affordable, 85 percent say their monthly premiums are affordable, 91 percent say their plan offers a good value, and 71 percent say they’ve lowered their prescription drug spending.

Current and potential beneficiaries can speak with a Medicare counselor for information about the benefit by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). To prepare for a discussion with a counselor, beneficiaries should have on hand a list of the prescription drugs they take, including the dosage and frequency, and a preferred pharmacy.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder and Medicare Options Compare are two new tools available on www.medicare.gov, to assist current beneficiaries and those eligible in process of choosing a plan or comparing a current plan to another option. These tools provide detailed information on all the available plans and the means to compare them based on cost, coverage, service area, and quality.

The Social Security Administration can also provide assistance for those who may qualify financially for extra help. Medicare beneficiaries interested in applying for extra help or those who have previously applied and want to check their status can call 1-800- 772-1213 to contact their local Social Security office.