May 01, 2004
The discount card program, a part of last year's Medicare Modernization Act that the Senator helped craft, will open for enrollment nationwide on Monday, May 3. Seniors in Alaska will be able to select from some of 39 different drug discount plans based on which plan will provide them with the greatest savings on the drugs they use most in their specific location. The prices for drugs under each card are published online at www.medicare.gov. The cards actually will be distributed starting in June.
"Alaska's seniors will be able to select the drug card that best suits their needs starting in early May. This will be particularly helpful to those 8,700 seniors in Alaska who don't have any drug coverage at all today. Drug discount plans not only list the price of their drugs, but also each pharmacy that seniors can go to to get their drugs. The website also gives information about lower cost generic versions of brand name drugs, and options for mail-order for those who prefer that."
"Different cards offer greater discounts on some drugs, so Alaskans need to go to the Medicare website, type in their zip code and then type in their medicines to see which plans will save them the most money at local participating pharmacies," said Murkowski, who said seniors who have no access to computers can also call a toll free number to gain help in selecting their plans. That number is 1-800-MEDICARE, but she said to expect the number to be rather busy for the first several weeks after the program opens Monday.
The Medicare Modernization Act provides a transitional $600 credit per year in 2004 and 2005 for the purchase of prescription drugs to beneficiaries with incomes that are 135 percent or less of the federal poverty level, provided that seniors do not already have Medicaid or other drug coverage. Also, these individuals won't have to pay an enrollment fee to join the discount card. In Alaska the extra subsidy is available for individuals with incomes under $15,134 a year - couples qualifying with an income of $20,439 or less.
Senator Murkowski said the government currently expects that at least 8,700 Alaskans are expected to be eligible to receive the $600 a year subsidies - Alaska seniors likely to receive $10.5 million in extra assistance over the next two years.
When the full Medicare prescription drug benefit starts in January 2006, the drug discount cards will phase out to allow seniors to choose whether or not to join the full drug benefit. In Alaska, according to Medicare, the average senior can expect to see their out-of-pocket drug spending cut in half.
Murkowski noted that there may be an initial enrollment fee for Alaskans to enroll in a drug discount card. The cards range in price from $30 to free, but each senior is encouraged to find out which card will help them the most based on where they are located in the state.
"The Medicare improvements are creating options for seniors in Alaska for the very first time in the history of the program. I encourage seniors, and especially those who have no drug coverage currently, to look at the discount card options online, and to select the plan that would best meet their needs during the open enrollment period in May," said Murkowski, who noted her offices around the state will attempt to help seniors if they have problems with the plan.
Again the toll-free number
to call for information nationally is 1-800-MEDICARE (633-2273).
Source of News Release: