Medicare Part D changes in the new year

Medicare Part D changes in the new year
With the new year coming fast, one resolution Medicare Part D participants should try to keep before Jan. 1 is to review their coverage plan again. Many things have changed, and open enrollment season for next year's Medicare prescription drug coverage ends on Dec. 31.�

Seniors are again responsible for doing the research to ensure they choose the best plan for their needs for next year, and Medicare beneficiaries should make plan decisions as early as possible to ensure their coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2007.�

Medicare beneficiaries deserve access to a reliable, meaningful, and affordable prescription drug benefit.� Some have found that in the current Medicare Part D plan, but for too many South Dakota seniors, it is not what the doctor ordered.�

Because the Bush administration insisted that private companies run the Part D Medicare program, those companies are free to change everything about their plan every year.

That means that premiums, deductibles, gapcoverage, and even the drugs the plan covers may be different next year than what you received this year.�

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, South Dakota's lowest-priced drug plan this year was set at $1.87 a month, next year the lowest-priced plan jumps to $10.60 a month. In 2006, South Dakota seniors had a dizzying 42 different prescription drug plans to choose from, next year 53 different plans are available.�

Most of these plans do not offer coverage through the dreaded coverage gap known as the "donut hole," and the gap will grow next year to $3,051.

While the Bush administration is touting the drop in "average" drug plan premiums, a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 75 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will pay higher premiums next year.�

Know that as we move to the new year, there will be a new Congress making new resolutions in Washington.� Among the resolutions to watch for in the 110th Congress are efforts to improve the Part D prescription drug benefit program for all Medicare beneficiaries.�

I sponsored legislation this Congress to eliminate the donut hole and reduce deductibles and premiums for beneficiaries. I also sponsored a measure to create a national "Medicare-Guaranteed Drug Plan" to compete with private plans.�

That means Medicare could negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs.�

If the Veteran's Administration and Wal-Mart are able to negotiate lower drug prices, Medicare should do the same and pass the savings on to our seniors.

Those are the resolutions I will work to keep next year in the new Congress. I will not give up on that issue, and I will continue to fight to fix the problems with Medicare Part D.

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