Medicare offers wider plans
Those who missed the previous Plan D sign-up or are now eligible can find better coverage
Isle Medicare beneficiaries have a chance to look for better drug coverage starting Nov. 15.
Those who failed to sign up last year or who have became eligible this year also can enroll in Part D.
People signing up for the first time or changing plans should do so by Dec. 8 -- though the deadline is Dec. 31 -- so they won't have any problems getting prescriptions filled at the beginning of the year, said Pamela Cunningham, coordinator of Sage PLUS.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
» Call Sage PLUS at 586-7299 on Oahu or (888) 875-9229 toll-free from the neighbor islands or the mainland, or (800) MEDICARE (633-4227).
» Find out about Part D plans on the Medicare Web site: www.medicare.gov
"Some people are under the assumption nothing is going to change from last year," Cunningham said. "Actually, they have a lot more choices and enhanced coverage."
The wider array of plans and options may be confusing, but beneficiaries can get detailed information to compare them on a Medicare Web site that just went up Friday: www.medicare.gov.
Six new health plan providers have entered the Hawaii market and some plans have three different options for Part D drug benefits, Cunningham said.
In all, there are 46 stand-alone prescription drug plans; 16 Medicare health plans and three Medicare special needs plans for Medicare-Medicaid clients, she said.
Twelve plans are offering coverage for generic drugs during a gap that occurs after $2,250 in drug costs, Cunningham said. The beneficiary then pays all drug costs up to $5,100, and then only 5 percent when catastrophic coverage kicks in.
One stand-alone plan will cover both generic and name brands, Cunningham noted. The Hawaii Medical Service Association's 65-C Plus members also have an option covering generic and name drugs during the gap.
Many residents did hit the $2,250 wall in drug costs, Cunningham said.
She said the new Medicare Web site is more visual, with a graph that will show if a person is going to hit the gap. "They can look for a different plan or save money for extra expenses."
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for Region IX lists these highlights for Hawaii in the new sign-up period.
» Twenty-one plans will offer enhanced benefits, including gap coverage and little or no deductible, compared to 12 such plans for this year.
» The lowest premium will be $10.80 a month and all beneficiaries will have access to coverage with a lower premium than what they're paying this year.
For people who take no drugs and want the coverage as insurance, the $10.80-per-month plan "provides that piece of insurance," Cunningham said.
» Twenty-seven plans have zero deductibles.
CMS said the Prescription Drug Finder Web tool has been upgraded with some new features, including:
» Plan information for 2006 and 2007 so beneficiaries can compare any changes to their plans,
» Information on how to lower costs in the coverage gap.
» A "favorites list" allowing beneficiaries to save information on up to 10 plans at a time.
» Tools to break out drug spending month by month so beneficiaries can track their costs as they pay deductibles and approach the coverage gap.
» Tools to zero in on certain preferences, such as low-premium plans and those with coverage in the gap.
About 151,691 Hawaii Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in prescription drug plans after the initial selection period ended in May.