Medicare Part D enrollment deadline approaching

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Senior citizens will have the opportunity to sign-up for Medicare's new Part D prescription drug plan on Nov. 15.

That is, provided Medicare participants are able to navigate the multitude of plans available and decide whether or not Part D will meet individual needs.

&#8220It's hard,” said Kathy Brown, Site Manager of the Senior Nutrition Center.

&#8220A lot of them don't understand and even some of the ones who work with it don't understand it.”

David Norrell, Manager of Stabler Clinic, said Part D is designed to help senior citizens with the rising cost of prescription drugs.

&#8220It's like drug insurance,” he said. &#8220Some people say, ‘Well, I don't take a lot of medicine.' But you have the security of knowing your drugs will be less expensive if you sign up for this plan.”

Medicare participants who already have prescription drug coverage will have the option of switching to Part D, should the latter plan be more favorable.

Generally, Norrell said the new plan would help those Medicare patients who are not currently covered under prescription drug plans because of high costs previously associated with purchasing drugs through private companies. The government has approved approximately 12 insurance providers that will be able to offer Part D benefits. Those include Humana and United Healthcare Group.

Brown said comments about Part D come mainly from those participants who don't require medication on a daily basis.

&#8220But we try and get them to understand that if they need medicine in the next year and choose to enroll then, they'll be penalized,” said Brown. The initial enrollment period ends on May 15, 2006. After that date, Medicare patients will have to pay a late fee to enroll in the plan.

As testament to the complexities surrounding the plan, United Healthcare recently produced a 25-page brochure to help patients better understand Part D and what it involves. The brochure is available at CVS Pharmacy.

While the brochure does detail the basics of Part D it's important to remember that individual plans may vary depending on what each private company offers in its plan, including what drugs are covered and which pharmacies can be used.

To convolute the matter even more for seniors, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama recently reported that some recipients have received fraudulent phone calls from various companies asking for bank account access numbers. Recipients are told that their benefits will be terminated and that the bank number will be used to enroll them in Part D.

Norrell reiterated that Medicare patients could not enroll in Part D until Nov. 15. He advises people not to give out personal information such as social security numbers or bank account information over the phone.

&#8220It's a statewide problem,” he said. &#8220We've just had general comments around here from people saying they received calls, but I haven't heard of anyone being taken in by this.”