March 25, 2004

Scotland County Senior Citizens Can Save With New Medicare Prescription Program

The 960 Medicare recipients in Scotland County soon will be able to save money on their prescription drugs as the nationís new Medicare law goes into effect.

The new law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush will provide prescription drug benefits for the first time in the history of the Medicare program to people age 65 and older and to people with disabilities.

Starting May 1, Medicare beneficiaries will be given the opportunity to sign up for a Medicare-approved prescription drug discount card for an enrollment fee of no more than $30-a-year. Private vendors will be making those cards available. Once signed up, cardholders can start using the discount cards in June, which will save them an estimated 10-25 percent off the price of most drugs.

In addition, low-income seniors (incomes of less than $12,123 for singles and $16,362 for couples) can get the discount card plus an annual credit of up to $600 that can be applied to the cost of medicine.

The discount card is an interim step to give immediate relief to seniors until Medicareís comprehensive drug benefit program goes into effect in 2006. When the full program starts, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to enroll in plans that cover prescription drugs and save an average of 50 percent off their drug costs. Low-income seniors will pay no more than $5 per prescription.

Since the new program is entirely voluntary, Medicare recipients can choose to make no changes in their existing coverage.

ďPeople with Medicare can keep their Medicare just as it is now,Ē said Tim Trysla, Special Policy Advisor to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. ďBut with the discount card coming in a couple of months, new preventive benefits next year and a drug benefit in 2006, seniors and people with disabilities will find that their Medicare is getting better and with more choices.Ē

The Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA) has joined with other health care and senior citizens groups to educate seniors about the benefits of the new program.

ďThis new law means senior citizens will get some relief from high drug prices beginning in June this year and much more relief beginning in January 2006,Ē said Dr. Frederick DeFeo, President of MSMA, Missouriís largest physician association. ďThis is a big step forward for health care in this country. Itís important that seniors become informed about the new program so they can take advantage of it right away.Ē

Medicare beneficiaries without outpatient drug coverage have paid among the highest prices for prescription drugs, as much as 20 percent higher than people who have drug coverage.

The new law, which was passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed in December by President Bush, is supported by more than 140 patient groups, health care organizations and employers.

For more information about the discount program, call 1-800-MEDICARE or log on to www.medicare.gov.

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