Seniors: Now is the time to sign up for new prescription drug plan

(Washington, D.C.)  Starting next year, a new Medicare prescription drug benefit plan will go into effect that will bring relief to millions of seniors who struggle with the escalating costs of prescription drugs. One of my top priorities is ensuring access to quality, affordable health care and I realize that updating and strengthening Medicare is part of that effort.

In the months ahead, over 102,000 Medicare recipients in Eastern Washington will have the option to being enrolling in prescription benefit plans. Although some beneficiaries will be auto enrolled, all Part D beneficiaries will need to select a plan that is right for them. As with any insurance program, seniors have options. This can be a confusing, and sometimes complicated process, and I want to ensure that people have the information and resources necessary to make educated decisions. Chances are, we all know someone who is eligible for this new prescription drug program. Whether it is our parents, grandparents or neighbors, we all must pitch in to help them understand these important choices.

In December of 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernizations Act of 2003 (MMA) was enacted. In addition to coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, and life-saving surgeries, Medicare will now cover voluntary prescription drug benefits. Everyone with Medicare is eligible for the new prescription drug coverage, regardless of income level, pre-existing conditions, or current prescription expenses. Consumers can choose from at least ten national plans that cover brand name or generic drugs.

An average person with Medicare could see his or her total drug spending drop by 50% and people with limited income and resources will have almost no drug expenses. While every plan is different, if a person joins a plan with standard coverage he/she could expect to pay:

  • $32 monthly premium
  • $250 annual deductible
  • 25% of yearly drug costs from $250 to $2,250
  • 100% of the next $2,850 in drug costs (after $3,600 out-of-pocket)
  • 5% or a small co-payment for the rest of the calendar year

There are a number of important dates coming up that seniors should mark on their calendars. People can start signing up for programs on November 15th and the benefits will take effect on January 1st. May 15th is the last day to sign up without incurring a penalty, and is also the final opportunity to change plans before 2007.

In addition, there is another program specifically for Washington State residents who may not fit within the Medicare prescription drug eligibility guidelines, but who may still need assistance in obtaining their precipitation drugs. Rx Help for Washington is a partnership for prescription assistance. It is a one-stop clearinghouse that provides information on hundreds of patient assistance programs and other public and private programs. It allows thousands of Washington residents to quickly search for free or discounted drugs by calling toll free 1-877-923-6779 or by visiting this website.

To learn more about the new Medicare prescription drug coverage, call 1-800-Medicare or visit this website. Seniors can also contact my office at (509) 353-2374 and one of my staff members will put you in touch with Medicare services.

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