Medicare :: Medicare beneficiaries will have access to a lower premium drug plan in 2008

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced that more than 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan (PDP) will have access to at least one plan in 2008 with premiums lower than they are paying this year. The open enrollment period for 2008 begins Nov. 15th and ends Dec. 31st.

In every state, beneficiaries will have access to at least one prescription drug plan with premiums of less than $20 a month, and a choice of at least five plans with premiums of less than $25 a month. The national average monthly premium for the basic Medicare drug benefit in 2008 is projected to average roughly $25.

“The 2008 options show that beneficiaries will continue to enjoy excellent value and choice in the Medicare prescription drug program,” Secretary Leavitt said. “The benefit continues to receive high marks from people who participate in the program. The actual average premium paid by beneficiaries for standard Part D coverage in 2008 is expected to be nearly 40 percent lower than originally projected when the benefit was established in 2003. Moreover, our data show that the Medicare prescription drug benefit is saving seniors an average of $1,200 a year.”

Beneficiaries who qualify for extra help through Medicare’s Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) will also have a range of options available for comprehensive coverage. Those who qualify for the full Medicare subsidy will pay no premiums or deductibles in these plans.

“We want to give every Medicare beneficiary who is eligible for extra help the opportunity to enroll in the Part D benefit,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Kerry Weems. “That’s why in 2008, CMS will maintain for low-income subsidy eligible beneficiaries the same exemption from the late enrollment penalty as in 2007. Eligible beneficiaries can enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan with no penalty through Dec. 31, 2008,” added Weems.

In 2008, 17 organizations will offer stand-alone prescription drug plans nationwide (in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C.). Beneficiaries will have a wide range of plans to choose from that have zero deductibles, some of which also offer other enhanced benefits, such as reduced deductibles and lower cost sharing. There also are options that cover generic drugs in the coverage gap for as low as $28.70 a month. Nationwide, beneficiaries in any state can obtain a plan with coverage in the gap for generic drugs for under $50 a month.

Beneficiaries will continue to have access to Medicare Advantage health plans that offer lower premiums and enhanced drug coverage. The premiums for Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage (MA-PDs) continue to be lower than premiums for PDPs. On average, in 2007, the MA-PD premiums prior to rebates are about $7 lower than those for PDPs. In 2008, they will average $11 lower. Further, over 90 percent of people with Medicare will have access to a MA-PD for a $0 premium and with a $0 drug deductible.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit continues to enjoy widespread popularity among people with Medicare. Surveys continue to show that upwards of 80 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are satisfied with their current coverage.

Details about the specific plans available in every region will be released in mid-October. Beneficiaries who want to review their current coverage as well as the other options available to them will have access to information and assistance from many sources including:

– A notice of any coverage changes from their current prescription drug plan, coming by Oct. 31st;
– The enhanced Medicare Drug Plan Finder, available in mid-October;
– Toll free information available 24/7 at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227);
– The annual Medicare & You 2008 handbook that explains Medicare coverage, to be mailed in October; and
– Local organizations such as the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs and thousands of other Medicare partner organizations that will provide personalized assistance throughout the fall.

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