Medicare Rx Beneficiaries Urged To Review Changes To Their Drug Plans

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Medicare Drug Plans

Members of Medicare Access for Patients-Rx (MAPRx) are urging all Medicare Rx beneficiaries, especially those with chronic diseases and disabilities, to closely examine changes to their Medicare prescription drug plans during open enrollment, which began November 15.

"With most plans making changes, it is vital that Medicare beneficiaries use the open enrollment period to compare their existing plan with others in their area to make sure that they find the plan that best meets their needs for the lowest cost," said Sandra C. Raymond, President and CEO, Lupus Foundation of America.

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Among the changes Medicare drug plans are making are adjustments to monthly premiums, the drugs covered (formulary), the cost of the drugs, and any restrictions used that limit the use of drugs. MAPRx's updated Medicare Prescription Drug Open Enrollment Questions and Answers provides important information about how plans are changing, how to compare and switch plans, and how to get free assistance in this process. The Open Enrollment Questions and Answers are available online on the MAPRx website, www.maprx.info.

Advocates urge all beneficiaries to determine if their drugs--especially their most expensive ones--are included on the formulary of any plan they are considering for 2007, as beneficiaries pay the full cost for any drug not on the formulary.

"Often the single most important factor in choosing a plan is comparing the drugs a person takes to the plan's formulary," said David Chatel, Executive Vice President, Advocacy, National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "The lack of coverage for one drug for a chronic condition can be the most important factor in terms of what a person's ultimate annual expense for drugs will be."

Open Enrollment runs from November 15-December 31. However, beneficiaries who decide to change plans are encouraged to do so as early as possible to ensure that they can get their medications without delay on January 1, 2008. Also available on www.maprx.info are timelines explaining the multiple mailings being sent to Medicare beneficiaries receiving the Part D low-income subsidy (Extra Help).

A MAPRx survey of organizations representing patients and families coping with chronic diseases and disabilities and conducted by Health Policy R&D highlighted Part D issues beneficiaries find most confusing. As a result, Open Enrollment Questions and Answers was updated to include charts explaining the coverage gap ("donut hole") and all of the options available during both the Part D open enrollment period and the Medicare Advantage open enrollment (January 1-March 31), as well as information on drug coverage determinations.

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