About 35 senior citizens at the Farmington Senior Center got the chance to ask questions about the new Medicare prescription drug plan Friday. U.S. Sen. Jim Talent was on hand to provide the answers.
&#8220It helped me a lot,” said Freida Casey. &#8220I hadn’t signed up for a plan, but now, I’m going to call as soon as I get home.”
Talent called the plan the biggest expansion in senior health care since Medicare began. It allows seniors and the disabled to select from a number of prescription drug plans and many people have been overwhelmed by the choices.
&#8220The idea was to have enough plans so it would force the prescription drug companies to control their costs,” said Talent. &#8220If we had one plan, it would certainly be simpler, but the premiums would be much higher.”
He said his office has been receiving at least a couple dozen calls about the program each week. He recommends seniors call the Medicare Hotline at 1-800-633-4227 or visit the Web site at www.medicare.gov. Talent’s Washington office can be reached at 1-202-224-6154.
Medicaid recipients were supposed to be automatically enrolled in the plan by Jan. 1. But many of them slipped through the cracks and weren’t enrolled. Others signed up and are still waiting for coverage. Insurance companies haven’t been able to keep up with the demand and some people who had cards weren’t in the company’s records yet. The sign-up continues until May 15.
Some seniors at the center wanted to know what happens if they sign up and their prescription needs change. Talent told them they can switch again until May 15 and after that, they will be able to switch each year between Nov. 15 and Jan. 1.
&#8220I was glad to find out I can sign up later,” said Glen Day. &#8220I’m covered now because I’m retired military.”
Margaret Holland and her husband Vance are finding out what they can about the plans they may soon need.
&#8220He’s retired from General Motors and we got a letter from GM saying they’re going to court in March so we won’t know what we’ve got until then,” said Margaret.
Judy Townsend works for Claim, the state health insurance assistance program. They provide counseling regarding Medicare. Call Claim at: 1-800-390-3330. She said half of eligible Missourians have now enrolled in Medicare Part D.
&#8220When you call, we will find out your location and match you with the closest volunteer who could help you, but we find about 75 percent of the questions we get can be handled by phone,” she said. There are no volunteers for the program in the Parkland, but Townsend said she hopes to train some in the future.
Senior Center Director Mona Yates said she hasn’t fielded too many questions lately about the drug plans, but when she gets them, she refers the seniors to their pharmacists.
Talent said local pharmacists who have supplied drugs for seniors whose coverage hasn’t yet begun will recoup their costs.
&#8220I will guarantee they will be reimbursed,” he said. &#8220We will deal with that in the next couple of months.”