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Frequently asked questions

February 05, 2006

Here are some answers to questions frequently asked about Medicare Part D.



Question: What is Part D?



Answer: Part D is Medicare's new prescription drug program, which took effect Jan. 1.

It allows people to choose from among dozens of competing private insurance plans and is intended to save people money on their prescriptions.




Q: Is Part D available only to low-income seniors?



A: No. Anyone who is eligible for Medicare benefits, regardless of income, is eligible to enroll in Part D. Additional benefits might be available for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.




Q: When do I have to sign up? Do I have to sign up if I already have a drug plan?



A: This year those who are eligible must sign up by May 15. Afterward sign-up periods will be held annually from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31.

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Signing up is not mandatory, but those who do not sign up and do not have a prescription drug plan that the government recognizes as "creditable" - meaning it is as good as or better than Part D - will have to pay a penalty for signing up after May 15.

Creditable plans include those offered by Veterans Affairs; TRICARE, a plan for members of the military; and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.

Some plans offered by private employers also are &creditable;" ask your employer for a letter indicating the plan is creditable.




Q: How much is Part D going to cost me in out-of-pocket expenses?



A: People in Part D pay a monthly premium - the average is $32 - and an annual deductible that will be no more than $250.

After reaching the deductible, those in Part D pay 25 percent of their drug costs and their plan pays the other 75 percent, up to a total of $2,250.

Participants then pay 100 percent of all costs for their next $2,850 in drug costs.

After paying a total of $5,100 for drugs, seniors pay 5 percent of drug costs and their plan pays for the rest.

Low-income seniors might qualify for additional help to ensure they pay no deductible and that prescriptions cost no more than $5 each.




Q: Can I continue to use the pharmacy of my choice?



A: Not all pharmacies accept all plans. Check with your pharmacist to see what plans are accepted.




Q: How do I sign up?



A: The easiest way to sign up is by using Medicare's Web site, www.medicare.gov.

After entering some personal information and information about their medications, people will be shown the plans that are the cheapest for them, as well as charts comparing all of the plans available.

Seniors also can call 1-800-MEDICARE. By the end of the phone call you can be enrolled in a plan.

Compiled by Candice Bosely from information provided by Katrina Eversole, a health insurance advocate with the Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program, and from Medicare's Web site, www.medicare.gov.

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