On December 8, 2003 the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act was signed into law. As of January 1st, 2006, Medicare-approved companies offer voluntary prescription drug coverage through the program known as Medicare Part D. Members pay a monthly premium and pay a share of the cost of their prescriptions. Costs and coverage varies, depending on the drug plan chosen. The next enrollment period is November 15-December 31, 2007.
Before choosing a plan, make a list of the medications you take and how much you currently pay for them. Be sure to read the government handbook, Medicare & You 2008 (also available online).
Consider the following when comparing plans:
- Coverage: Does the plan cover all of the medications you’re taking? The most important ones? If it doesn’t cover a drug you’re currently taking, does it cover an alternative medication? Use Medicare’s Formulary (Drug) Finder to find out which medications the plans cover
- Cost: How much will you pay for a drug compared to your current costs? Factors such as the deductible, premium, and co-payment should be taken into consideration.
- Convenience: Will you be allowed to use your current pharmacy? Can you fill your prescriptions when you travel? Does the plan offer mail-order prescriptions?
- Coordination: How will the plan work with your current health and drug coverage?
In addition to the Formulary (Drug) Finder, two other noteworthy online tools offer assistance. After completing the short online questionnaire on BenefitsCheckUpRx, you will learn about government and private programs that can save you money on health care and prescription drugs. Use the Landscape of Local Plans State-By-State Breakdown to make informed comparisons of all drug coverage plans in your area.
If you are living on a limited income, you may be eligible for “Extra Help,” an assistance program that helps reduce drug costs. Find out if you qualify and learn how to apply for assistance by consulting Medicare & You 2008 and Social Security Online. BenefitsCheckUpRx may also be of some help.
After thinking things through, doing your research and selecting a plan, you still have to enroll. The government provides a number of ways:
Contact the Ohio State Health Insurance Assistance Program for Ohio-related information at 1-800-686-1578. The Kentucky State Health Insurance Assistance Program can be reached at 1-877-293-7447.
To find out more about Medicare Part D and individual prescription plans, please visit these authoritative sites:
- AARP: Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. Information provided by the largest senior advocacy group in the country.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Information relating to all aspects of Medicare.
- Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: Resources on the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. Overviews, factsheets, public opinion and statistical data.
- Medicare Rights Center. Advocacy, calendars, help guides and questions of the week.
- Social Security Online: Help with Prescription Drug Costs. Online applications, information guides, and video resources.
- Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio. Information from the non-profit agency responsible for planning and coordinating local, state and federally funded programs and services for older adults in Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren counties.
More Contact Info
For access to government depository publications and other information, contact (513-369-6900)or visit the Library’s Information and Reference Department.