• 64°

Pharmacists: Medicare choices confusing, seek info on drug plans

By By MICHELE GERLACH – Publisher
Beginning Jan. 1, everyone with Medicare will have access to prescription drug coverage, regardless of their income, health status or prescription drug usage.
That sounds like a good thing, but for many Medicare recipients, it's also a confusing thing. Seniors are being bombarded with information about the different drug plans available, and can choose a plan now. Those who sign up for coverage by Dec. 31, 2005, will have coverage beginning in January.
Like other insurance plans, Medicare prescription drug coverage requires a monthly premium. Companies may not set the yearly deductible at more than $250 in 2006. Those with limited incomes may qualify additional help; those who currently receive Medicaid drug coverage will receive free coverage from Medicare beginning in January.
Danny Cottrell, owner of Medical Center Pharmacy, said he's spending most of his time helping his customers decide which plan to choose. The biggest thing, he said, is to make sure the insurance plan you choose covers the prescription drugs you use.
With most blood pressure and cholesterol medications there are plenty of options, he said.
Walmart pharmacy manager Ted Jennings said he and other pharmacists are getting a &#8220tremendous amount” of questions from customers.
Jennings advises anyone who already has a prescription drug plan to stay with it if possible.
But many group retirement plans that offer prescription coverage are restructuring to encourage people to move to a Medicare plan.
Jennings encourages those seeking information to ask the insurance company for help.
Medicare recipients have until May 15, 2006 to enroll in a plan without a penalty. The next enrollment opportunity will be from Nov. 15, 2006 until Dec. 31, 2006.
Additional information is available online at www.medicare.gov.