Welfare Notes - October 2005

October, 2005

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans
Medicare Part D is the optional prescription drug program available to all people eligible for Medicare beginning January 1, 2006. Medicare Part D will be available for a monthly premium from a variety of private companies over a six-month open enrollment period beginning November 15, 2005 and ending May 15, 2006. Medicare Part D plans will vary in terms of cost, prescription drugs that are covered and pharmacies that may be used.

 Companies providing Medicare Part D programs may soon be contacting Medicare eligible Pensioners to advertise their programs. Telemarketers are free to call to give information about their programs, but unsolicited callers cannot enroll people over the phone.

Phone signups are permitted if you call a company directly or you are contacted by your Medicare managed care plan. Be sure to protect your private information such as your social security number from unsolicited callers.

If you are in a Private Fee-for-Service plan or a Medicare cost plan that does not offer drug coverage, you can enroll in a stand-alone prescription drug plan. If you are in a Medicare HMO such as Kaiser, you must receive all of your medical and drug coverage through that plan.

Medicare also recommends that you write down a list of the drugs you use on a regular basis before trying to determine which Part D plan is best for you. You may also wish to contact your doctor to see if your prescriptions may change during the course of treatment.

If you are currently enrolled in Medicare or will be eligible for Medicare in January 2006, your initial enrollment period for Part D will be November 15, 2005 through May 15, 2006. You can still sign up after May 15, however, a penalty of 1% of the average national premium will be applied to your premium for each month you delay your enrollment. The Medicare website www.medicare.gov lists 101 questions and answers about the new Part D program. You can also call 1–800-MEDICARE for help in making your decision.