Medicare Sign-Up Has Begun
By U.S. Representative John R. Carter
November 16, 2005
This month our seniors in the 31st District are encouraged to take a step towards reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Beginning November 15th, all Americans can sign up for the Medicare prescription drug benefit that will help cover the cost of their medications. It is the first time in Medicare's history that this coverage will be available.
For many of our seniors, prescription drugs are a part of everyday life. Doctors prescribe them for short-term illnesses as well for as the management and treatment of chronic ailments such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes. These necessary medications, however, can be expensive, and many people have been forced to cut back on their drug dosage or forgo them altogether because of cost. No senior should have to make that decision.
In recent weeks, you might have seen information about different Medicare plans available. Seniors will have many coverage choices that will provide access to generous benefits and low or no premiums.
The drug benefit is voluntary and flexible - if needed, seniors can revisit their options and change their Medicare plan annually. Signing up is easy - a senior only needs their Medicare card, a list of prescribed drugs, and the name of his or her pharmacy to get started.
It is important to sign up before the end of the year, so that seniors can start saving money right away when benefits are available January 1, 2006. The last day to sign-up is May 15, 2006. There are several resources that have information about plans or how to sign up:
·Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and talk to a Medicare representative. You can also call one my district office at 254-933-1392 or 512-246-1600
·The Medicare & You handbook should have arrived in your mailbox. It is also available, along with other helpful information, at: www.medicare.gov.
When Congress crafted this legislation, it was a priority to introduce competition to the process. As expected, competition has had the intended effect - it is driving down drug prices and premiums for our seniors. There are many plans available that have no premiums or no deductibles. According to Medicare, a typical beneficiary with no coverage today will save about 50 percent on prescription drug costs under the new program.
For seniors with limited means, additional help is available. About one-third of all people with Medicare will qualify for extra assistance that will cover between 85 percent and almost 100 percent of prescription drug costs. You may qualify if your resources are less than $11,500 if you are single, or $23,000 if you are married and living with your spouse.
As we age, most people need prescription drugs to stay healthy, and the Medicare drug benefit provides insurance against future high drug costs. I hope all our seniors in the 31st District and their friends and families will enroll in a plan this fall so that by the New Year, they're receiving needed prescription drugs and, in turn, saving money.