Deadline To Sign Up For New Medicare Prescription Drug Program Is May 15

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As many seniors may already know, this year Medicare began offering new prescription drug plans to help seniors pay for the prescriptions they need. Seniors now have the opportunity to enroll in the new Part D Prescription Drug Assistance Program.

The program, passed by Congress in 2003, allows everyone enrolled in Medicare to join a specific drug plan that fits their needs. It is important to note that while this program is groundbreaking in its aim to ensure affordable drugs for those on Medicare, it is entirely voluntary. Seniors already enjoying employer sponsored benefits can keep that coverage. The deadline to sign up is May 15, 2006.

This new program allows consumers to choose from several different plans, and will let seniors pick the one that works best. Different plans cover different medications, and the option to choose between plans allows flexibility so seniors can choose a plan that saves them the most money.

This is how the program works. Seniors who enroll will pay an average monthly premium of about $25 to $35. After seniors pay for their first $250 in annual drug costs, Medicare will pay for 75 percent of drug cost up to $2,250. Additionally, Medicare will pay for 95 percent of drug costs greater than $3,600.

On average, enrollees in the new plan will pay about half of what they paid for drugs in the past. This program is increasing competition and lowering prescription drug prices for our seniors. The plans will be especially beneficial to those seniors with low incomes. Those who qualify will have 85 to 100 percent of their prescription drugs covered, with little or no premiums and deductibles and only small co-payments. Seniors can revisit their plan annually and change their plans and options each year.

It is very important that we have convenient access to affordable prescription drugs in rural Arizona and I think we should allow consumers, pharmacies, and wholesalers to import approved drugs from certain developed foreign countries, like Canada.

This is why I am supporting legislation (H.R. 328) to give Americans the opportunity to purchase FDA-approved drugs at the same low cost as in Canada and other developed countries. I will continue the fight for convenient access and fair pricing for prescription drugs for our seniors.

With any new, comprehensive initiatives such as this one, there is always confusion and some hesitation. This is why I am sponsoring several Medicare workshops to help explain the Medicare Prescription drug benefit for seniors in rural Arizona. We will have several experts from the Medicare Access Network of Arizona and my office to meet with seniors one-on-one and help them navigate the many different options and plans.

My office will be hosting a Medicare Workshop in Payson on Friday April 28 at the Payson Senior Center and my staff will be available to assist seniors with the sign up process. Previous town hall meetings were held in Casa Grande, Coolidge and Florence, Globe, Safford and Show Low. Future meetings are planned for Prescott, Prescott Valley and Flagstaff.

For more information

Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to talk to a Medicare representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you have Internet access: www.medicare.gov

Call the Social Security Administration at: (1-800-772-1213) and if you have Internet access www.socialsecurity.gov

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