Medicare enrollment now under way

Published 2:06 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2006

By By Michele Gerlach
Open enrollment for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage in the 2007 calendar year is underway.
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older (and for younger people with disabilities), offers insurance coverage to help pay for prescription drugs.
Brewton pharmacist Danny Cottrell, owner of Medical Center Pharmacy, and partner with Greenlawn Pharmacy owner Jim Justice, said it's important for those eligible to sign up.
"First of all, if you're happy with your coverage, you don't have to do anything," Cottrell said, although it could be wise to make sure your plan isn't changing.
"A lot of the plans have small variations, some good and some bad," Cottrell said.
For instance, the cost of the Humana Complete plan has increased 30 percent.
"If you're not happy, talk to your pharmacist about which plan you should choose," he said.
"The things they've got to look at are which drugs are covered and how long they were in the donut hole this year," he said.
The "donut hole" is the coverage gap. AARP explains it this way: If your total drug costs, that is, the amount paid by both you and your drug plan, are higher than $2,400 a year, you will pay 100 percent of the cost of your drugs up to $3,850 (total) out-of-pocket before your coverage starts again. Premiums don't count as out-of-pocket drug costs.
Those eligible for coverage have until Dec. 31 to enroll, he said.
"We're trying to recommend that people enroll by Dec. 15 so there is less chance of a last-minute log jam that can delay coverage," he said.
He encouraged those eligible for Medicare to check with Social Security to determine if they are eligible for additional help with the drug plan.
In a one-person household in which the income is less than $14,600, and in a two-person household in which the income is less than $19,800, persons are generally eligible for additional help.
"There are some asset clauses," Cottrell said. "But they don't count your house, your car, or the land the house is on. A lot of people qualify at a level that all their medicine is paid for."
Last year, Cottrell conducted numerous sessions in which he helped people determine which plan to choose.
"We saw 2,300 people and 1,400 signed up for one of the various plans," he said.
This year there's not as much traffic, but still some people are interested in changing or signing up.
"About a third of our customers are doing some kind of tweaking to their plans," he said.