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Augusta Chronicle - Medicare Improvements Will Help Seniors

Location: Augusta, GA

Augusta Chronicle - Medicare Improvements Will Help Seniors

By Saxby Chambliss Guest Columnist Augusta Chronicle

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

On Nov. 15, Georgia seniors and those who are disabled can begin signing up for the new Medicare Prescription Drug program signed into law by President Bush last year. While coverage will not begin until Jan. 1, 2006, it's important that all eligible individuals sign up as soon as possible and choose the plan that's right for them.

Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt will meet with Augusta seniors to answer questions and explain the new prescription drug program. I would like to thank Secretary Leavitt for taking the time to visit with Georgians on this important issue, and I commend President Bush for his leadership in making this service available to our nation's seniors.

SOME FOLKS may be wondering what's new and different about this program, and I'd like to take this opportunity to explain the changes to those who are unable to attend today's meeting and offer resources to help Georgians maneuver through the new system.

The Medicare Prescription Drug program (P.L. 108-173) modernizes Medicare from a 1965-era program to one that strengthens our private health care system, creates incentives for competition and a consumer driven approach to health care, and gives our seniors the full measure of modern medicine that has been promised to them.

The new program can provide relief to you and your pocketbook by covering both brand name and generic drugs at participating pharmacies close to where you live. An average Medicare beneficiary could see his or her total drug costs drop by about 50 percent, and those individuals who live on fixed incomes may be eligible for a 100 percent reduction of drug expenses.

EVERYONE CURRENTLY enrolled in Medicare is eligible for the new prescription drug coverage, regardless of income level, pre-existing conditions, or current prescription expenses. While these changes are 100 percent voluntary, Georgians need to sign up to participate. Each plan will differ in terms of cost and coverage, so it's important to choose the option that is best for you. After you decide on a particular plan, you pay a monthly premium and Medicare helps pay the bill.

You have from Nov. 15 through May 15, 2006, to enroll and if you sign up before May 15, your costs may be lower. If you already have prescription drug coverage through an employer, union plan or Medicare Health Plan (Medicare Advantage plan or Medicare Cost plan), Medicare can still help reduce your costs.

GEORGIA SENIORS also have access to assistance through the Georgia Department of Human Resources' GeorgiaCares program. GeorgiaCares, through its network of Area Agencies on Aging, operates a toll-free hotline, and is playing host to town hall gatherings to answer questions and help guide you step-by-step through the enrollment process. For times and locations of events in Augusta, please call 1 (800) 669-8387.

These are only a few of the many efforts your elected officials are making to guarantee affordable health care for seniors. As a member of the United States Senate, I will continue working to make sure our federal health care programs provide the best possible treatment our country has to offer.

To learn more call 1 (800) MEDICARE - 1 (800) 633-4227 - or visit

(Editor's note: The writer is a Republican U.S. senator from Georgia.)

From the Wednesday, November 9, 2005 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle

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