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Fact Sheet: Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage: Enroll Now and Start Saving

April 11, 2006

Today, President Bush Discussed How The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Is Helping Beneficiaries Afford The Drugs They Need. The Administration has launched a broad outreach campaign to educate seniors and disabled Americans about Medicare's new prescription drug coverage program. More than 29 million beneficiaries have already signed up. The typical senior who previously lacked drug coverage will spend about half of what he or she used to spend on prescription drugs - an average annual savings of $1,100.

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Helps Everyone With Medicare Pay For Prescription Drugs

Everyone With Medicare Can Get Benefits, No Matter How They Pay For Their Prescription Drugs.

Extra Coverage Is Provided For Medicare Recipients With High Prescription Costs. Medicare covers 95 percent of all prescription costs once beneficiaries spend $3,600 of their own money each year.

Medicare Is A Critical Safety Net For Americans With Disabilities. Millions of Americans with developmental and physical disabilities, mental illness, and HIV/AIDS count on Medicare. Medicare's new drug coverage brings them secure coverage and modern medicine.

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Offers Better Choices

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Offers Choice And Flexibility. Seniors are choosing plans that best meet their individual health needs. Enrollment data show that around 90 percent of beneficiaries are in plans that are different from the standard plan designed by the government. Many are choosing plans that offer lower deductibles or no deductibles; fixed co-payments for most drugs; and extra coverage to fill in the coverage gap.

Medicare Provides Support To Employers And Unions Offering High-Quality Drug Coverage. Employers and unions providing drug coverage to their retirees with Medicare can continue doing so, and Medicare will help with the cost.

Medicare Advantage Plans And Other Medicare Health Plans Allow Seniors And Americans With Disabilities To Choose Their Plans And Receive Better Drug Benefits. Seniors and Americans with disabilities who enroll in Medicare Advantage plans and other Medicare health plans can choose the plan best fitting their needs and lifestyles. These plans can enable them to save an average of $100 each month over traditional Medicare.

Many Medicare Drug Plans Offer Affordable Ways To Avoid Coverage Gaps. Under standard Medicare prescription drug coverage, once a person's cumulative drug expenses reach $2,250, there is a gap in coverage until out-of-pocket spending reaches $3,600. However, competition in the prescription drug marketplace has resulted in many affordable drug plans that cover this gap as well.

Switching To Generic Drugs Can Provide Extra Savings. The FDA requires that all generic drugs have the same dosage, strength, safety, and quality as their brand-name equivalents. When people switch to generics, they can save hundreds or thousands of dollars. A recent Consumers Union study found that people could save enough to cover the cost of their premiums by switching to equally effective, lower-cost medicines.

Medicare Recipients Should Join Now - The Sooner They Join, The Sooner They're Covered

Enrolling By The May 15th Deadline Ensures The Lowest Premiums. For best results, Medicare recipients should sign up for a Medicare drug plan early in the month before they want coverage. This enables them to receive the most out of their coverage.

Eligible Beneficiaries Can Sign Up Online, Over The Phone, By Fax, Or Directly With Plans. Medicare beneficiaries and their family members with questions about Medicare drug coverage can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY users call 1-877-486-2048) or visit 1-800-MEDICARE wait times average less than two minutes.

  • Assistance Can Also Be Obtained In The Local Community From State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) And Partner Organizations Including Pharmacists, Senior Centers, And Groups Like The AARP And The National Council On Aging.

Joining A Medicare Drug Plan Provides Peace Of Mind By Protecting Beneficiaries From Unexpected Drug Expenses. Even those without significant drug expenses should consider joining a Medicare drug plan to avoid unforeseen prescription drug bills later in life.

Medicare Provides Extra Help For Beneficiaries With Limited Income And Resources

About A Third Of Seniors Are Eligible For Prescription Drug Coverage That Includes Little Or No Premiums, Low Deductibles, And No Gaps In Coverage. On average, Medicare will pay for more than 95 percent of the costs of prescription drugs for low-income seniors.

  • Applications For Extra Help Are Available. Last fall, millions of applications for extra help were mailed to many low-income seniors and Americans with disabilities. Applications are also available at locations around the country, including over 30,000 pharmacies, or through the Social Security Administration by visiting, or calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or going to any Social Security office. There is no cost or obligation to apply for extra help, and no financial documents or complicated records are required. Everyone who thinks they may qualify should apply.

Efforts Are Being Made To Enroll Americans In Rural Areas. For example, in Iowa the Administration is working with the Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Grange, and other partners to ensure seniors in rural communities hear about the benefits and plans available to them.

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage By The Numbers

More Than 29 Million Beneficiaries Are Already Enrolled In Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. An average of 380,000 beneficiaries are enrolling each week.

Nearly 7 Million Beneficiaries Are Currently Enrolled In Medicare Advantage Plans, Which Often Provide More Choices And Extra Benefits. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has increased by about 1 million since sign up for the Medicare prescription drug coverage began.

Competition Is Reducing The Costs Of Prescription Drugs For Consumers And Taxpayers:

  • The typical senior who previously lacked drug coverage will spend about half of what he or she used to spend on prescription drugs - an average annual savings of $1,100.
  • The average premium seniors are paying for their prescription drug benefit is $25 per month - much less than the previously projected $37 per month.
  • This year, the Federal government will spend 20 percent less overall on the Medicare drug benefit than was projected last July.
  • Over the next five years, costs to taxpayers are projected to be $30 billion less than previously projected.
  • Over the next 10 years, States will spend $37 billion less than previously projected.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage: Enroll Now and Start Saving Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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