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Seniors can get help choosing Medicare plan

Lee Cable’s recent article, ‘Medicare D drug plan: too much, too soon’ (The Corydon Democrat, Jan. 18, 2006), points out some of the problems with the new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.
I wasn’t in Congress when the prescription drug benefit was created, but now that the program has been enacted into law, despite the problems some seniors are having, I do want to encourage all seniors to take advantage of a program that will almost certainly save them money.
As Mr. Cable’s article points out, this new program can be confusing as seniors try to choose from among the 42 different plans available in Indiana. But choice can also be a good thing, because that choice, and the competition among plan providers, has helped keep the price down for seniors. In Indiana, the cost of those 42 plans varies from $12 a month to around $90 a month.
Because the prescription drug needs of seniors vary greatly, it is very important for seniors to choose the plan that best meets their individual needs.
Some seniors take six or seven medications, often costing hundreds of dollars a month. Some seniors take no prescription drugs at all.
That is why it is important to choose the plan that is the best for you. This plan is voluntary; you don’t have to sign up, but you should. Even if you don’t take prescription drugs today, as most seniors do, you may someday, and this new program will significantly reduce the costs of your prescription drugs.
This new program isn’t perfect, but it will help seniors get their medications at a fraction of the cost they would otherwise pay. For some seniors, this program will completely cover their costs.
If you need more information, or would like help choosing a plan, there is help available.
Seniors can call the Medicare hotline at 1-800-MEDICARE, to receive help with any questions that they have about signing up for the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. The hotline is operated 24 hours a day, but if you call at off-peak hours, wait times will be shorter.
Before you call, create a list of all the medications you take. Your particular combination will be important when choosing a plan. And make a note about which pharmacies you go to, as this can also be a factor that will help you choose a plan.
The 1-800-MEDICARE staff will use that information to help find a plan that best suites your needs. If you prefer, you can use the Medicare.gov Web site to help you choose a plan.
Indiana’s Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) can also be useful for seniors when choosing a plan. SHIP can be reached at 1-800-452-4800. Trained SHIP volunteers can help seniors one-on-one with specific questions about plans, and will even come to your home and help you choose a plan if necessary.
My office has, and will continue, to provide Medicare Prescription Benefit Information Sessions around Indiana’s 9th district, including recent meetings in Corydon, Marengo, Tell City, Salem and Clarksville.
At those meetings, I bring Medicare professionals to explain how the plan works and to provide seniors with the information to help them decide which plan best suits their needs. I will continue to hold those meetings until the initial sign-up period closes on May 15. I would like to personally encourage those who are eligible to sign up for these new benefits before May 15, to ensure that you pay the lowest possible premium.
Information about Medicare’s Prescription Drug Benefit is only a phone call away. If you have questions I encourage you to call Medicare or SHIP, talk to your local pharmacist, or to attend one of the many meetings for seniors and Medicare beneficiaries. You can also visit my Web site at sodrel.house.gov for additional help.
If you are already signed up for a plan, but are having problems receiving your medication, I encourage you to contact my office at 1-812-288-3999.

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