Improving Health Care Options for Our Seniors
By now, you have probably heard about the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, the federal program which provides assistance to seniors and eligible low-income individuals in paying their prescription drug costs. Since January, Medicare-eligible seniors enrolled in the Benefit have been receiving savings on average of $1,200 from their costs. Currently, more than 38 million seniors nation-wide are voluntarily enrolled and accessing the benefits of the program, with more than 78,000 seniors with prescription drug coverage in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District.
What you may not know is that from now until the end of the year, seniors who have yet to sign up for a plan under the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, or those who would like to switch plans, can do so. During this open enrollment period, which began November 15th and will run until December 31st, seniors who are currently unhappy with their plans or whose coverage needs have changed over the past year are encouraged to research and compare alternative plans. It is vital that seniors take the time to review the more than 40 plans available in New Jersey and determine what their needs are. It is also highly recommended that seniors select their new plan and enroll by Friday, December 8th to avoid any delay in getting their prescriptions filled after January 1st.
Prescription drugs, however, are just one part of the healthcare puzzle to help keep our seniors and ourselves healthy. Increasingly, medical doctors across the nation are recommending steps that can be taken by Medicare beneficiaries - as well as all of us - to decrease the likelihood of serious health problems. Included in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 - which established the Prescription Drug Benefit - was a new emphasis on preventive services that may find health problems early. Early detection often proves beneficial since it increases the likelihood of successfully treatment. These preventive services may include: physical exams; cardiovascular screening; bone mass measurements; cancer screenings; glaucoma tests; diabetes screening; and, routine shots for common illnesses such as the flu.
I strongly encourage South Jersey seniors to consult with their doctors and their local pharmacists to determine which preventive services may be available under Medicare and if their healthcare needs are met under the Prescription Drug Benefit program. Seniors who need additional information should call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov. For assistance in enrolling in the Prescription Drug Benefit, I recommend seniors contact the New Jersey State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) at 1-800-792-8820 or the specific county office listed below. Additional help is available through my Mays Landing office by calling 609-625-5008 or 1-800-471-4450. I remain committed to providing affordable preventive services and prescription drugs to our seniors, and working to expand access to healthcare options for South Jersey residents.