Medicare Prescription Drugs
People on Medicare are going to be able to chose a prescription drug benefit that will start on January 1, 2006. If you are over 65, or a family member is, there are some things you should know.
First, the program is completely voluntary. If you like the prescription drug coverage you have, you don't have to change a thing.
Second, the prescription drug program is open to everyone who qualifies for Medicare. You can get coverage whether you get your health care through an HMO or use fee-for-service Medicare. The premium is going to be about $32 or less a month for people who do not qualify for additional help because they are poor.
Third, you will have choices. In October everyone on Medicare will get a booklet in the mail that explains how the new drug benefit will work to help you make a choice of the plan that's best for you. From what we are hearing, there will be a lot of choices -- some might say too many. But there are a lot of different needs out there too, and we wanted to make sure that people can find a plan that works for them. You should take some time to look through the options and see what works best for you. Some people want a mail order plan, others want to make sure that particular medicines they take are on the list of those provided and so on.
Fourth, there is extra help for those who have low incomes and not much savings. This is important in New Mexico. Our estimates are that 45 percent of seniors will qualify for low cost or no cost prescription medicines. That's an incredible help to people who have been not taking their medicine because they can't afford it.
The Social Security Administration recently mailed out a form to seniors they believe might qualify for extra financial assistance for their medicines. It had a lot of blanks to fill in. If someone you know qualifies for Medicare and got one of these forms, please help them fill it out. The first step to getting the help they need is to fill out the form and return it or call 1-800-772-1213 and you can complete it by phone.
We are working with churches and neighborhood associations, employers and healthcare providers to make sure that everyone who qualifies for that extra help gets it. Medicare and Social Security will be coming to New Mexico to conduct outreach events in the next six months to let people know about it and help them apply. This is a grassroots effort to get out the word and get help to the people who need it most. When those who qualify for the extra help complete the application in November they can enroll in a prescription drug plan that meets their needs at very low out of pocket costs.
I need you to help spread the word. We've put quite a bit of information on our e-news letter this week about the prescription drug plan and how people can qualify for it. Think about how you can help get the word out to people you know -- get an item in your employee newsletter to reach families who may be helping parents pay for their medicines, put a notice in your church bulletin to help people who are on fixed incomes, put information on the tables at your Kiwanis or Rotary club meeting.
Wish you were here,