MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES: WAIT TO ENROLL
IN A MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG DISCOUNT CARD


May 3, 2004 Contact:  Judith Stein, Esq.
jstein@medicareadvocacy.org
(860) 456-7790

Although Medicare has recently launched a website designed to help Medicare beneficiaries compare prices of their prescription drugs and pick the most appropriate prescription drug discount card, Center for Medicare Advocacy Executive Director, Judith Stein, cautions that the site contains incomplete information. "Currently there are 39 drug card sponsors approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and 12 of them have been approved in the last week. We don’t know how many other companies will eventually be approved as sponsors by CMS. Even after they are accepted as drug card sponsors, companies must have their marketing materials approved before the details of their plan can be listed on the website, which means Medicare’s website will not contain complete information about all beneficiary choices for quite some time."

Ms. Stein also noted that if beneficiaries choose a card now, based on the information that is currently available, they will not have the option of changing to a more beneficial card later when more information about all the choices becomes available. "Once beneficiaries sign up for a drug card, they are locked into that choice for the rest of the year so it is imperative that beneficiaries have all the information they need to make the right choice," said Stein.

To the extent that the discount drug cards actually save a beneficiary money, a delay in enrollment means a delay in savings. The problem is compounded for beneficiaries eligible for the $600 credit on their discount drug cards under the transitional assistance program. "Low income beneficiaries are put in the position of either making a decision without all the relevant information available to them," Stein explained, "or waiting to get all the information they need to make an informed decision and delaying receipt of the assistance they so desperately need."

"Using the Medicare discount drug website is labor intensive and complicated. Individuals need to know the names and dosing details of all their prescription drugs to utilize the site," Stein continued. Medicare beneficiaries with Multiple Sclerosis and other long-term illnesses which require specific drugs should pay particular attention - the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s recent search indicated that many drugs needed by people with MS were not included on the discount cards for which information was available.

Individuals should visit the site frequently to obtain updated information and to get acquainted with the system before they choose a Medicare drug discount card. The discount card information can be found at www.medicare.gov.


© Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. 09/04/2013