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Medicare Improvements to Help Georgia Seniors

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Medicare Improvements to Help Georgia Seniors

By Senator Saxby Chambliss

Last year, the United States Congress made some important changes to the Medicare program that will affect thousands of Georgia seniors who currently rely on Medicare. And I want to make sure Georgia's seniors are well informed.

After 40 years of providing dependable coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays and life-saving surgeries, Medicare now covers a "Welcome to Medicare" physical and preventive cardiovascular and diabetes screenings. In addition, Medicare will offer dependable coverage for prescription drugs beginning January 1, 2006, which is designed to help save seniors money on their prescription drugs and reduce their costs.

While these changes are 100 percent voluntary, Georgians need to sign up to participate. And everyone with Medicare is eligible for the new prescription drug coverage, regardless of income level and resources, pre-existing conditions, or current prescription expenses.

Medicare prescription drug coverage can help by covering both brand name and generic drugs at participating pharmacies close to where you live. A typical person with Medicare could see his or her total drug costs drop by about 50 percent and people with limited income and resources may have almost no drug expenses.

Medicare prescription drug coverage is insurance from private companies. You can choose the drug plan that is best for you. You pay a monthly premium and when you join a plan, and Medicare helps pay the bill.

Each plan will differ in terms of cost and coverage. If you already have drug coverage through an employer, union plan, or Medicare Health Plan (Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Cost plan), Medicare can help reduce your costs.

So when and how can you join? You can join a Medicare prescription drug plan from November 15, 2005, through May 15, 2006. Enrollment is voluntary. However, just like other insurance plans, you can pay less if you don't wait to sign up. So if you sign up before May 15, 2006, your costs may be lower.

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