HHS pushes Medicare-approved drug discount cards on mothers day

This year for Mother's Day, HHS Secretary Thompson urges families to give their mothers who are Medicare beneficiaries the gift of savings on prescription drugs by helping them pursue Medicare-approved drug discount cards.

Secretary Thompson said families can help their mothers compare cards by going to the new price comparison Web site at www.medicare.gov, then help their mothers choose a card that's right for them. Medicare is also providing on its website a tip-sheet for caregivers to help a loved one with Medicare compare cards and choose. Families can also call 1-800-MEDICARE for personalized help in choosing a card. A tip sheet to help people make a choice is available at http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11071.pdf.

"Mom taught you the value of a dollar," Secretary Thompson said. "This Mother's Day show her what you learned by helping her save on prescription medicines with a Medicare-approved drug discount card. You may be able to help your mother save 10 to 25 percent or more on the costs of her prescription drugs. If your mother has a lower income, she may also be eligible for an additional $600 to help pay for her prescription medicines, a valuable benefit.

"Help your mother compare cards and choose one that best meets her needs by going to www.medicare.gov or calling 1-800-MEDICARE. While you're at it, you might as well help your dad save too and get a jump on Father's Day."

Low-income beneficiaries may also receive a credit of up to $600 each year in 2004 and 2005 to help pay for their prescriptions. Enrollment began this month, and the discounts begin June 1.

All Medicare beneficiaries, except those who have outpatient drug coverage through Medicaid, are eligible to enroll in a Medicare-approved drug discount card program starting today. Beneficiaries who enroll by the end of May will be fully eligible for the discounts and financial assistance beginning in June. The card sponsors may charge an annual enrollment fee of no more than $30, though many cards have lower fees and some have no fee.

Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for the $1,200 credit over the 18-month life of the discount card program to help pay for the prescription drugs if their income in 2004 is no more than $12,569 if single or no more than $16,862 if married. There is no enrollment fee on any card for people who qualify for the credit.

Last week, HHS launched a Web tool at www.medicare.gov for seniors and people with disabilities who receive Medicare to compare cards and choose the one that best fits their needs in providing savings on their prescription medicines.

Customer service representatives at 1-800-MEDICARE can answer questions about the program, help callers compare the drug cards on price and network pharmacies, and provide additional information for low-income beneficiaries on prescription drug assistance programs sponsored by their state and by drug manufacturers. The customer service representatives will mail the personalized results of the comparison to callers.

To make it easy to sign up for a discount drug card and for the $600 credit, Medicare has established a standard enrollment form that all card sponsors will have to accept.

To date, Medicare has approved 40 national cards available to all eligible beneficiaries, and 33 cards available in various regions of the country. This includes a national Long Term Care card available for those in nursing homes and a regional card available in the Territories. A small number of additional card applications are still being reviewed, and the number of cards that meet all Medicare requirements is expected to increase.

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