CHOOSING A MEDICARE DISCOUNT DRUG CARD
Medicare beneficiaries who chose a card in 2004 could switch cards between November 15 and December 31, 2004. The new card was effective on January 1, 2005. People who have never had a Medicare drug card can still enroll, and can do so throughout 2005. In most circumstances, however, once someone does choose a card they will be “locked-in” to that card for the rest of the year. The Medicare card program ends on December 31, 2005 and the Medicare Part D prescription drug program begin on January 1, 2006. The guide below is intended to help people select a Medicare Drug Discount Card for 2005.
A QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE TO MAKING INFORMED DISCOUNT DRUG CARD CHOICES
Know Your Own Needs:
What prescriptions do you need? Know the name and specific dose of each drug you need. Write these down or have the labeled medications with you for easy reference.
What are the prices of those drugs?
Are the drugs you take “generics” rather than brand names? If not, check with your doctor to see if generic equivalents will meet your needs, since they are usually less expensive.
Find Out About the Medicare Discount Card Options Available to You:
Call 1(800) MEDICARE to find out about the Medicare discount cards available to you, or visit the Medicare website: www.medicare.gov .
You can also contact your state SHIP program. (Call 1(800)633-4227 to find the SHIP program in your state. In Connecticut, contact the CHOICES program at 1(800)994-9422.)
If you are a member of a Medicare Advantage managed care plan, contact the plan to see if they are offering a discount card just for their members. If so, this is the card you must use.
Compare the Information About Each of the Available Cards. Here Are Some Key Questions to Ask:
What is the annual enrollment fee? (It can be up to $30, but many cards are less.)
What drugs are discounted? Does the card have a “formulary”? (List of covered drugs.)
Are the drugs you need on the card’s formulary/discount list?
If not all of your drugs are on the card’s discount list, are the ones that cost you the most on the list?
How much is the discounted price?
Will your pharmacy accept the discount card you think you want? If so, what does the pharmacy charge for the drugs you need?
REMEMBER: The Medicare card plans can change the list of discounted drugs and the discounts weekly, but you will not be able to change cards once you make your choice. The best you can do is choose a card based on the drugs you know you need when making the card choice. Make your best estimate of needed drugs when you choose a card.
Special Options for People with Low Incomes:
Is your income $12,569 or less? ($16,862 for a married couple.) If so, you may be eligible for the Medicare discount drug card “transitional assistance”, a 600/year credit towards drug costs and payment of the annual drug card enrollment fee. To maximize this benefit enroll by March 31, 2005. After that time the $600 credit will be reduced. For further information contact your State Health Insurance and Assistance Program (SHIP) – known as CHOICES in Connecticut. Information is also available from Medicare: Call 1(800)MEDICARE or visit the Medicare website:www.medicare.gov.
Connecticut residents may also qualify for the state’s pharmaceutical assistance program, ConnPACE. The income limit for ConnPACE eligibility for 2008 is less than $23,700 if single or $31,900 if married.
Connecticut residents who are eligible for both the Medicare discount card low income assistance and for ConnPACE must choose a Medicare discount card approved by the Connecticut Department of Social Services. For more information on ConnPACE and Drug Discount Cards, contact the ConnPACE program at (800) 423-5026.
Copyright © Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc.