Welfare Notes - March 2004

March, 2004

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage
The current administration in Washington D.C. has enacted a new law that will make changes in the Medicare Program. Medicare will remain the national health care program and will be offering new benefits. These new benefits are voluntary, if you are not interested in the new options you can choose to remain on the regular Medicare plan you have today.

Medicare approved drug discount cards will be available in 2004 to help you save on prescription drugs. Medicare will contract with private companies to offer new drug discount cards until a Medicare prescription drug benefit starts in 2006. A discount card with Medicare’s seal of approval may help you save on prescription drugs. You can enroll in this program as early as May 2004 and continue through December 31, 2005. Enrolling in this program is voluntary, Medicare will be mailing information soon with more details on how to enroll.

The actual prescription drug program will be added to Medicare and start in 2006. All people with Medicare will be able to enroll in these plans. Plans might vary, but in general this is how they will work:

  • You will choose a prescription drug plan and pay a premium of about $35 a month.
  • You will pay the first $25 (called a deductible)
  • Medicare will then pay 75% of costs between $250 and $2,250 in drug spending. You will only pay 25% of these costs.
  • You will pay 100% of the drug costs above $2,250 until you reach $3,600 in out of pocket spending.
  • Medicare will pay about 95% of the costs after you have spent $3,600. Some prescription drug plans may have additional options to help you pay the out of pocket expenses.

Extra help will be available for people with limited incomes. People with Medicare in the greatest need who have incomes below certain limits will not have to pay the premiums or deductibles for prescription drugs. The inc ome limits will be set in 2005. If you qualify you will only pay a small co-payment for each prescription you need.

Once again these programs will be voluntary, you may decide which program is best for you. For more information on Medicare and the new options being offered you may go on line at www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDUCARE (1-800-633-4227)