If you listen to the news, the new Medicare
card from the Bush administration, is worthless. However, right now
all the news is about supporting the liberal candidates and thus, very
politicized (the Bush admin could give all seniors drugs for free and
somehow the news would find a way to make it look bad!) so best to seek
other sources of information about any government service.
To find about about the new Medicare card, I went to the
www.medicare.gov site. There is
also an 800 number you can call which is:
1-800-MEDICARE (ask about
the new prescription drug discount card)
The new prescription drug card turns out to
be a rather good deal, I thought, with drug costs running about 20 percent
of what someone would pay without the plan and most of the usual medications
which seniors take, ARE covered, even the name brands. It apparently
is an interim card until more substantial benefits kick in, in year 2006.
Following are more details about this plan.
Like all government operations, the site (and the program) is complex. You
are first asked to fill out what drugs you NEED and what your income is
because what benefits are available on the card and whether you get the tax
break (up to $1200 a year) for non covered drugs, is somewhat contingent on
income. You are NOT asked your name or address, just the zip code. You are
also asked to click "OK" on a non disclosure agreement (which is meaningless
since you have not supplied your name or any personal information which is
I am not on Medicare and only take allergy meds, but I filled out the form
on the website as a person ON Medicare with an income of over $5000 per year
(worst case scenario - least coverage), for a usual cocktail of drugs a
person my age might be taking - for blood pressure, diabetes, blood thinner
for atherosclerosis and celebrex and neurotin for pain and lipitor for
cholesterol. I selected all name brands - generics are less expensive but I
like name brands. Once you get to the place where you can select the drugs,
you can see a list of "most usual drugs" which are covered. Or you can
search for the drug you'd like to look up. Like the insurance lists you may
have to make substitutions like Glucophage for Avandia etc.
The drugs I listed (6 of them) which all are in excess of $80-$110 per month
each, so would cost me over $650-$700 per month if I SELF paid, could be
gotten by a person with a $5000 + income on medicare with the new card, for
$215 a month for ALL OF THEM (for all name brand drugs) at several
pharmacies near me (you put in your zip code and it tells you the
participating pharmacies) one of which was Walgreen's which is open 24
hours. They give you the list of pharmacies and the price comparison
(Walgreen's was the least expensive).
You can also mail order the drugs on which, the cost would be similar per
month but you can get a three month supply.
Apparently the new card is issued through the pharmacy - the pharmacy has a
small annual enrollment fee (Walgreen's charges $20 a year).
The card is new so probably more drugs will be added in the future and also
many more pharmacies. There is increased coverage (the site told me)
starting in 2006 which will cover more and add new savings and
The plan did not look bad to me at all. But a stumbling block for some will
be the complexity of the website which, although tries to be helpful for
each person at their level of income and insurance coverage (makes a
difference obviously if you have drugs covered by other insurance), it ends
up being difficult enough to use that people like myself who are just
looking for a ballpark figure who are less experienced than I am in computer
geek stuff, might have a difficult time figuring out how to get a ballpark
figure thus ending up looking at less reliable sources (like the TV news -
in which the blabographers ALSO probably never researched the website).
Perhaps it is easier to get info via the 800 number but knowing govt stuff,
I wouldn't guarantee it and that has remained the same (difficulty with
dealing with phoning govt agencies) regardless of what party supplies the
president currently in office. :)
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