Welfare Notes - August 2005

August, 2005

New Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
Medicare will soon offer a voluntary prescription drug plan with coverage beginning January 1, 2006. The enrollment period for this new benefit, entitled Medicare Part D, is from November 15, 2005 through May 15, 2006 and Part D coverage will be offered through various insurance companies with different company plans covering different drugs. Recent good news is that the average monthly premium for the Medicare drug plan has been reduced from the previously projected $37.37 to $32.20.

Anyone who is qualified to receive existing Medicare benefits will be eligible for the new Medicare drug plan. Current information regarding general coverage is as follows: Medicare Part D will pay 75 percent of initial drug costs up to $2,250 annually after a $250 deductible. There is no coverage for drug costs incurred from $2,251 to $5,099. However, once drug expenses exceed $5,100 annually, Medicare Part D will pay 95 percent of all costs.

An important fact to remember is that there will be a penalty of 1 percent increase in the monthly premium for every month sign up is delayed after the November 2005 to May 2006 enrollment period cited above.

Additionally, for those Medicare beneficiaries who meet certain low income restrictions, subsidized Part D coverage will be available with generally zero premiums, no deductible, and only $2 or $3 co pays per prescription. Medicare has begun sending notices to people who may qualify for this financial help.

Information concerning specific Medicare Part D plans, including which drugs will be covered, will not be available until October. For additional details, Medicare can reached at its toll-free information line, 1-800-633-4227, or at the Medicare Web site