Medicare coverage available Jan. 1

Medicare coverage available Jan. 1
Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, Medicare prescription drug coverage will be available to everyone with Medicare, regardless of income, health status, or how they pay for prescriptions today.

A South Dakota State University specialist said all people with Medicare need to make a decision about their prescription drug insurance coverage by May 15, 2006 � the deadline for initial enrollment. Medicare drug plans vary by which prescription drugs are covered, how much the people who join will have to pay, and which pharmacies they can use.

SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Specialist Liz Gorham says it is important for people to study different plan offers (at least three is the recommended number) in choosing a plan that meets their needs.

A typical person using prescription drugs with Medicare but who has no drug coverage now, could see total costs drop by about 50 percent. Extra help is available for people with limited income and resources. About one in three individuals with Medicare are expected to qualify for this extra help, Gorham said.

"Even if the person does not use a lot of prescriptions now, he or she should still consider joining a plan. As we age, most people will need prescription drugs to stay healthy," Gorham added. "Signing up for Medicare prescription drug insurance coverage today can protect people from very high prescription drug bills in the future. The purpose of Medicare Part D insurance is to protect major assets that would otherwise be used to pay prescription drug bills."

For more information or assistance in determining your top three drug plans, contact your local or area county Extension family and consumer science educator, SHIINE at 1-800-536-8197, or other Medicare Partner.

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