Medicare :: Prescription Drug Coverage

Millions of seniors are once again affected with the issue of Medicare Part D, with the new enrollment period for the prescription drug plan starting Wednesday and running through Dec. 31.

Should they decide to do either, though, they need to act in the six weeks before the Dec. 31 deadline. For those who want to ensure that coverage will start Jan. 1, the timeline is even shorter: Medicare officials are recommending enrollment by Dec. 8 to allow enough timeto process applications.

Medicare is a national health insurance program created and administered by the federal government in the United States to address the medical needs of older American citizens. Medicare is available to U.S. citizens 65 years of age and older and some people with disabilities under age 65.

More than 125,000 Mainers get their prescriptions through the Part D drug benefit Medicare started on Jan. 1, a first in its 41-year history. Many were paying for medication entirely out of pocket.

Another 57,000 or so Medicare beneficiaries have drug coverage through former employers and private insurance. Yet another 56,000 do not have drug coverage, nearly a third of whom could qualify for subsidized Medicare drug benefits because of their incomes.

For the inaugural year, the open enrollment period was six-months long but that did little to prevent widespread glitches resulting from the start-up of the program.

Maine was the first state tosubsidize drug costs for the poorest beneficiaries, but many had trouble getting their medication because computer data systems had incorrectly recorded their drug plan information, or left it out altogether.

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