Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Medicare Part D Enrollment Opens with Outreach & Education

On November 15, 2007, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a Press Release entitled "2008 Open Enrollment for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage and Medicare Advantage Plans Begins Today", noting that this enrollment period will end on December 31, 2007.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that, beginning today, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to begin making enrollment changes in their health and prescription drug coverage for 2008, if necessary.

The Medicare annual Open Enrollment Period for prescription drug plan runs from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, 2007. * * *

“Now is the time for beneficiaries to prepare and compare their health and prescription drug coverage options and choose the plan that best meets their needs,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. * * *

HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) encourages all beneficiaries to act soon to compare their current plan with other plan options. If they are satisfied with their current plan, they do not need to do anything in order to maintain coverage. CMS wants eligible beneficiaries who do not have prescription drug coverage to know that, if they wait, they may pay a penalty on their premium. * * *

The Press Release recommended various resources available on the Medicare website, including the updated, 2008 Medicare handbook, "Medicare & You". This publication, previously mailed in print to beneficiaries in October, provides tips on selecting a plan and an overview of plan options.

The Press Release promoted the enhanced online Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder options provided on the Medicare website by use of search tools and data updated for 2008:
The Press Release also mentioned renewed fourth quarter public outreach & educational efforts by CMS in promoting this Medicare Part D enrollment period.
The 2007 Medicare bus tour, Working Together for Better Health, is touring 180 cities across the country from Oct. 2 through Dec. 31, joining community efforts and hundreds of partners nationwide to assist Medicare beneficiaries with their health and prescription drug plan options.

The initiative features educational materials that are easy to understand and geared towards specific minority groups. Outreach messages will target African American, Hispanic, Asian American Pacific Islander and Tribal communities. Information and applications are also available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.* * *

Educational information will be provided through print materials, radio and Internet banner ads. In addition, CMS partners including the SHIPs, Area Agencies on Aging and local community providers will be reaching out to beneficiaries and helping with enrollment. * * *
As part of that outreach & education, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging updated its website on November 19, 2007, with a News Release entitled "Local Meetings Will Help Pennsylvanians to Choose Among Medicare Drug Plans":

Secretary of Aging Nora Dowd Eisenhower today urged older adults and other Medicare beneficiaries to attend local enrollment meetings designed to help them choose a federal Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Meetings will be held across the state. * * *

Secretary Eisenhower stressed the importance of considering the “three C’s” when choosing among the Part D plans:
  • Coverage: Check to see if your medications are covered on the plan’s formulary;
  • Cost: Compare your current prescription costs to the costs of other Medicare drug plans (premiums, deductibles, co-payments);
  • Convenience: See if your current pharmacy works with the plan and whether they offer a mail order option. Some plans may require Step Therapy, which means that they may require you to first try a certain drug to treat a medical condition before they will cover a different drug for that same condition. * * *
The News Release noted that the educational meetings, as organized by PA DoA and its 52 local Area Agencies on Aging, will be "led by volunteers from the department’s APPRISE program, which offers free, unbiased health insurance counseling to Medicare beneficiaries."

These are the topics & objectives of the sessions:
  • Complete a Medicare Part D plan comparison based on individual prescriptions & needs
  • Explain the various costs involved with the Medicare Drug Plans in a local area
  • Offer tips on how to save money during the coverage gap
  • Assist with on-line enrollments
The Medicare meeting schedule, by county in Pennsylvania, is available online through a link on the home page of the PA DoA's website, or you can access it directly here.

Medicare beneficiaries may also contact APPRISE, toll-free, at 1-800-783-7067, for information.

“This is an important time for beneficiaries to review their current coverage
and make a decision

that will give them peace of mind for the rest of the year."
-- CMS Acting Administrator Kerry Weems.