I’m glad I don’t have to make these choices yet, although the alternative, no health care at all isn’t that rosy. In the USA, there is no health coverage except for children and pregnant women, those over 65 through Medicare (fought bitterly by the medicos when proposed in the mid-60s), and some disabled. Instead, health care is rationed by the ability to pay cash for it. In rural areas, it costs more because of transportation costs to get to wherever the health practitioner establishment is located.
Seniors select Medicare drug plan
Published: October 13, 2005
Last Modified: October 13, 2005 at 03:22 AM
Health care is about to change significantly for some 53,000 Alaskans. Congress has created a Medicare prescription drug plan for seniors.
Everyone participating in Medicare — or about to join the program — should pay attention to the government’s new Medicare Part D insurance plan. How you respond to the plan could save you or cost you hundreds of dollars a year, if not more.
In November, seniors all over Alaska will be asked to choose a private prescription drug plan from those offered by 11 providers. Enrollment continues through May 15.
The providers’ plans are subsidized and regulated by the federal government.
Nobody has to join, but those who do not will face higher premiums or out-of-pocket expenditures if they decide later to buy the coverage.
Every expert who comments on the drug plan says the same thing — in an effort to give consumers more choices, Congress created a complex system. The complexity is compounded by the multiple choices to consumers. If you are a senior, you will have to do some homework to determine what plan is best for you. If you are thinking, ‘Nobody said anything to me about it,’ don’t worry, you will be getting plenty of mail from the government and providers.
Finding the plan that is best for you will depend on your prescription needs, the amount you spend on drugs annually, your income and other individual factors. There is no one-size-fits-all program for every Alaskan.
The New York Times recently ran a Q&A that addresses the prescription plan. Here’s part of what the Times said:
Q: How does a person decide what drug plans are best?
A: This will not be easy. In almost every state, more than 40 free-standing prescription drug plans will be available. (In Alaska the number is 27). One plan may cover 1,300 drugs, while another covers 2,500.
Under many plans, the beneficiary will have to pay 20 percent of prescriptions. Under other plans, the beneficiary will have to pay $5 for a generic drug, $25 for a preferred brand-name drug and $45 for other brand-name medicines.
By now, you may be thinking, “I am not going to make sense of any of this without help.” Well, help is available. For starters
• Call 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE) and speak to a public service representative.
• Visit the Web site www.Medicare.gov
• See the 11 providers offering plans in Alaska at www.cms.gov/map/charts/chart4Ak.pdf
• Attend a workshop at the Anchorage Senior Center (1300 E. 19th Ave.) noon to 2 p.m. today, an event sponsored by the Social Security Administration. (A similar workshop will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Oct. 26.)
There’s plenty of time to prepare for the new Medicare prescription drug regime. And if you prepare early, keep a file of all your correspondence and handouts and ask good questions of the right people, you might be much happier with the results.
BOTTOM LINE: It pays to pay attention to choosing the right Medicare prescription drug plan.