Medicare Prescription Drug Choices Due for Retirees in Fall 2005 

Seniors receiving Medicare benefits who have prescription drug coverage through a former employer or union will begin getting letters as early as September that compare their current drug coverage to Medicare's. 

The letters were originally scheduled to begin going out October, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is encouraging employers and unions to step up efforts and begin sending out the letters sooner. 

Retirees are being urged to begin checking their mail now. 

The letter compares recipients' employer/union-sponsored drug coverage to Medicare's new drug coverage. 

The comparison shows whether the coverage is comparable to, better than, or not as generous as Medicare's drug coverage. This comparison will help simplify the enrollment decision for the full one-third of Medicare's 42 million beneficiaries who are covered for prescription drugs by an employer or union retiree health insurance plan. 

Beneficiaries are advised to remain with their current plan if its drug coverage is as good or better than Medicare's, otherwise, they may consider signing up for Medicare's drug coverage. 

If an employer or union retiree health plan discontinues its Medicare-comparable drug coverage, the beneficiary can sign up for Medicare's drug coverage even after the open enrollment window (Nov. 15, 2005 to May 15, 2006) without being subject to the late-enrollment penalty (but they must sign up within 63 days). 

Under Medicare reform the government program now gives employers and unions 28 cents on every drug-cost dollar to encourage them to continue offering drug coverage, and every Medicare recipient is eligible to sign up for the new prescription drug program. 

The Medicare agency recently announced that the average monthly premium has fallen to $32.20 (down from $37), and that there will be at least one plan in every state, with the exception of Alaska, offering monthly premiums as low as $20. 

The Medicare Rx Education Network offers a free brochure with important information about the new coverage. You can request a brochure by calling (800) 670-9006. 

-Developed From ARA Content News Service