This month, I encourage seniors of the 31st District to take a step towards reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Beginning November 15th, anyone enrolled in Medicare, regardless of income and resources, health status or current prescription expenses can sign up for Medicare Prescription Drug (Medicare Part D) coverage. Those already enrolled can use this opportunity to alter their existing plan.

For many of our seniors, prescription drugs are a part of everyday life. Doctors prescribe them for short-term illnesses as well as chronic ailments such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. Many of these necessary medications can be expensive, and many seniors are forced to cut back on their drug dosage or forgo them altogether because of the cost. No senior should have to make that decision.

This is where Medicare Part D steps in. Medicare and the new prescription drug plan are in place to provide affordable health services to millions of American seniors. Although the prescription drug plan is a relatively new plan, studies show that 75 percent of beneficiaries are satisfied with the program. Seniors who are enrolled in Medicare Part D are not only satisfied with the coverage they are receiving, but they are also saving money. The White House recently reported that the program is 30 percent less expensive overall for the first 10 years than originally estimated, and the estimated average 2008 monthly plan premium for standard coverage is nearly 40 percent lower than originally estimated.

Medicare Part D is flexible. If needed, seniors can revisit their options and change their Medicare plan annually. Signing up is easy. A senior only needs their Medicare card, a list of prescribed drugs and the name of their pharmacy to get started. Seniors may sign up when they first become eligible for Medicare (three months before the month you turn 65 until three months after you turn 65). If you didn't join when you were first eligible, your next opportunity to join will be from November 15, 2007 to December 31, 2007. For more information call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov http://www.medicare.gov.

For seniors with limited means, additional help is available. You can apply or get more information about extra help by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

As we age, most people need prescription drugs to stay healthy. Medicare Part D can help seniors save on average $1200 a year on their prescription drugs. For seniors the choice is easy: enroll now, and start saving and join the millions of seniors who are reaping the benefits of Medicare Part D.