Apr 11 2004
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced last week that 28 private sponsors will offer 49 different Medicare-sponsored drug discount cards, beginning June 1. Additionally, 43 private health plans have received CMS approval to offer Medicare drug discount cards to their members only.
“So many choices will confuse most people,” said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “It will be an extreme challenge to make an educated decision.”
“On one question there is no doubt,” Mr. Hayes said. “We urge people who qualify for the low-income discount drug card to sign up. Everyone else is best served if they explore other discount drug options that offer deeper discounts such as state and pharmaceutical company assistance programs or buying drugs from Canada.”
Individuals with incomes below $12,569 ($16,862 for couples) qualify for the low-income discount drug card, which provides $600 a year towards the cost of their drugs. The fee for the discount drug card is waived for people who qualify for the low-income program. People with low incomes who are on Medicaid, however, are excluded from this Medicare benefit.
Sponsors of Medicare-approved discount cards will begin marketing their cards this month. Enrollment in particular cards begins May 3rd with benefits kicking in on June 1st.
The Medicare Rights Center compiled the following list to help people get the most savings on their prescription drug costs.
- Medicaid: This program, jointly funded by state and federal governments, provides medical assistance, including prescription drug coverage, for certain individuals and families with low incomes and resources. (www.cms.gov/medicaid)
- Veterans Benefits: For veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers prescription drugs prescribed by a VA doctor and filled at VA facilities. There is a small copayment. (1-877-222-8387, www.va.gov)
State-sponsored programs: More than half of all US states offer a state-sponsored program to assist elderly and/or people with disabilities with their drug costs. Read the eligibility criteria carefully as most of the programs have income limits. To find out if your state has one, call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). You can request the number for your SHIP by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.
Internet-based discount pharmacies: You can order many prescription drugs online at significantly reduced prices. Be sure to know the prices of your medications to see how much of a discount, if any, you will receive. When looking at Canadian sites, be sure to know whether prices are listed in Canadian or US dollars and remember to take into consideration the cost of shipping and handling.
Pharmaceutical company and pharmacy discount cards: You can sign up for discount programs with drug manufacturers, pharmacy chains and other suppliers. Some of these programs require that you have no other prescription coverage, that you meet an income limit or that you pay a fee. Know the requirements before signing up.
Visit www.medicarerights.org/rxframeset.html for the specifics (including phone numbers and website) on these money-saving options or send $5 to Rx Chart/MRC/1460 Broadway/NYC, NY 10036 to receive a copy by mail.