AMARILLO If Medicare coverage weren’t already confusing enough, new legislation passed last year to upgrade the program has many recipients scratching their heads. But not to worry, said Andrew Crocker, Texas Cooperative Extension gerontology health specialist. Clarification is just a click away, thanks to the World WideWeb.
Medicare is the federal health care program designed for people age 65 and older and those who are disabled. That hasn’t changed.
What has changed are some of the benefits included in Medicare coverage, Crocker said. For instance, new drug discount cards for Medicare beneficiaries will be available this year. These cards will provide discounts of 10 percent to 25 percent for prescription drugs until the newly authorized Medicare prescription drug benefit starts in 2006.
But Medicare beneficiaries need to be aware that prescription drug card scams are already operating, said Dr. Joyce Cavanagh, Extension family economics specialist.
“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has received reports from seniors that they are getting phone calls and door-to-door visits from people offering Medicare approved’ cards,” Cavanagh said. “These people are also requesting personal identifying information.
“There are currently no approved drug discount cards from Medicare. The earliest beneficiaries will be able to sign up for the cards will be May.
“If you hear of this type of activity in your area or receive calls for information, please … (don’t) provide any personal information and … report the visits or calls to the authorities.”
Enrollment for the drug discount cards will be May 2004 through December 2005.
Other Medicare changes Crocker listed are:
– New preventive benefits that will include a one-time wellness exam; blood screening tests to check for heart disease; and diabetes screening tests for those at risk.
– Prescription drug benefit plans, starting in 2006, that will include monthly premiums and a $250 deductible. Other options may be available, such as extra help for those with the greatest financial need. Some of those who qualify by income will only pay a co-payment for each prescription; others will receive help paying the premiums and deductible.
– Expanded Medicare Advantage plan choices that will include preferred provider organizations plans that allow a choice of medical care providers
– Health Savings Accounts for all, in which participants may set aside money for health care expenses.
For more information on Medicare and the changes, visit the Web at www.medicare.gov or call (800) 633-4227. (TTY users call (877) 486-2048.) The information is available in English or Spanish.