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Medicare Drug Discount Cards Mean Savings for Seniors

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Medicare Drug Discount Cards Mean Savings for Seniors

A new law will establish the first-ever comprehensive Medicare prescription drug benefit starting in 2006. But beginning on June 1st of this year, this new Medicare drug law will offer a temporary benefit for millions of American senior citizens: the Medicare-approved prescription drug discount card.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the typical senior citizen spends nearly $1,300 annually on his or her medicines. And this new card could save a senior who lacks drug coverage as much as $300 per year. For lower-income seniors, it will provide even more.

For seniors to take advantage of this completely VOLUNTARY drug discount card program, however, they need to sign-up. While doing so will not be difficult, the next several weeks will be very important for seniors because it's during the month of May when they may begin to sign-up for the cards. With that in mind, here's some information interested seniors will want to know so their enrollment in the prescription drug discount program is as quick and easy as possible.

During the month of May, seniors will receive a letter from Medicare describing the drug card enrollment process. Annual fees for the discount cards will range from $0 to $30 for most seniors. However, if you're a senior with an annual income below $12,569 as an individual or $16,862 as a couple, you might be eligible for additional financial assistance. Medicare will pay the enrollment fees for qualified seniors, who may receive up to $600 in 2004 and 2005 to assist with the cost of their medicines.

Already, more than 20 organizations - from the AARP to health insurance companies - have received Medicare approval to offer discount cards in Ohio, all of which will carry the official seal shown above.

It is critical to know that this logo - and only this logo - deems the card as Medicare-endorsed and ensures specific government-backed consumer protections.

With many choices available, seniors can compare different cards to find one that best meets their individual health care needs. There are two easy ways to determine which card is the best card for them. The official Medicare website - www.medicare.gov - provides customized information about the differences in drug coverage, pharmacy participation, and prices among the available cards.

However, if a senior does not have access to the Internet or is uncomfortable using it, similar assistance is available by phone - toll free - at 1-800-MEDICARE. Seniors may ask the Medicare operator to send them a personalized booklet to assist them in making their drug card decision.

Before a senior logs on to www.medicare.gov or calls 1-800-MEDICARE to begin this process, he or she should have the following information ready:

1. Name of each prescription drug you are taking;

2. The dosage (pill size); and

3. How often you take the drug.

All of this information can be found on your prescription bottles or the print-out your pharmacy provides when you pick up your prescriptions.

Once a senior decides which card is best, he or she may contact the company to sign up for that particular card. When the enrollment form has been approved, the company will send a Medicare-approved drug discount card, which may be used anytime after June 1st. It's as easy as that. Seniors also will be mailed a member handbook, a discount drug list, and a pharmacy provider directory.

This discount card program is the first concrete step toward making a Medicare prescription drug benefit a reality for seniors. Once again, seniors on Medicare will receive letters about the drug program during the month of May. Throughout the sign-up process, to gain additional information I urge you to visit the website, call the toll-free Medicare number, or - if you'd prefer - contact my office directly at 1-800-582-1001.

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