Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Medicare Rx Bus

GARY--Amid complaints that the Medicare part-D plan was hard to understand, the
Medicare Rx bus with all of it's bells and whistles, made a stop Tuesday in Gary
at the Genesis Convention Center.
Many senior citizens seemed relieved at the answers they were given.
Mary F. Hayes, 74, of Gary got a shock when she picked up her pricey name brand


hypertension medication last week. She had to pay a co-pay but thought her
secondary insurance would prevent that. She said she never had to make a
co-payment when

she was on the state's Medicare subscription program.
"Saturday I had to pay $30 co-pay for each but the (counselor) said that
was not accurate," Hayes said. The counselor helped her find a better prescription drug plan.

Eddie Gray, 80, a SHIIP volunteer, said although it doesn't sound like much
money, Hayes' insurance coverage has a "gap" in coverage. The money she saves now
will help cover the gap later.
"When they pick up again, it will be with a lower co-payment. It's best to
go ahead and enroll now," Gray said.

According to data released by the Health and Human Services Department in
February, more than 51 percent of Medicare-eligible seniors already have signed up for the program.
"Some who retire find their health insurance plans aren't what they thought
it would be," Fran Wersells, Region V program specialist for Administration on Aging, said.

Medicare Part A, pays for hospitalization, Part B, doctor and
outpatient visits and Part D, prescription coverage. Enrollment for Part D, ends
May 15. Enrollment won't open again until November 2007.
Senior Health Insurance Information Program volunteers (SHIIP) are located at
Methodist Hospital Northlake. Information may be obtained from the desk near the
emergency room entrance. The hours of service are the first and third Tuesday of
the month 10 a.m. to noon. Information about SHIIP, a free counseling service
from the Indiana State Department of Insurance, may be obtained by calling
1-800-452-4800.


Some seniors, like Princie Kindred, had no coverage. Sometimes seniors believed
they must pay for medicines out of their monthly social security checks.
Wilma Wilson brought her mother, Barbara Palmer, on the suggestion of a
neighbor, Wilson said. Her mother wasn't signed up for a program.
The counselors and Senior Health Insurance Information Program volunteers,
helped seniors either find an appropriate prescription drug program or explained how they could help save money on their out-of-pocket expenses for medications.
Brenda Delgoto, of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, warned that
enrollment for Medicare Part D, closes May 15. She said sometimes unfortunate circumstances happen to otherwise healthy seniors, like accidents. Then they may need additional medicines, so it would be good to enroll.

Medicare prescription drug coverage provides protection for people who have very
high drug costs but everyone with Medicare is eligible for coverage, regardless
of income and resources.

Seniors can join a Medicare prescription drug plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan
or other Medicare Health Plans that offer drug coverage.
There is a monthly premium, which varies by plan, and a yearly deductible (no
more than $250 in 2006). Depending on income, seniors may have to pay a part of
the cost of prescriptions, including a co payment or coinsurance. Costs vary.
Some plans may offer more coverage and additional drugs for a higher monthly
premium.

Seniors on a limited income and have few resources may qualify for extra help,
where they may not have to pay a premium or deductible.
Almost 1 in 3 people with Medicare will qualify for extra help and Medicare will
pay for almost all of their prescription drug costs, according to information
from the Department of Health and Human Services.
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