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|Paynesville Press - November 30, 2005|
MEDICARE PART D: New coverage affects Medigap
Are you a Minnesotan on Medicare and have a Medicare extended basic supplemental policy with 80 percent prescription drug coverage? If so, read on.|
You should know that starting Jan. 1, 2006, Medicare will cover prescription drugs. This is important to you because, even though you have prescription drug coverage now, you'll want to learn about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D) and review all your options.
By Nov. 15, 2005, you will receive a notice from your Medicare supplement insurance company. This notice will let you know whether your policy is "creditable." This means your policy is at least as good as the standard Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Then, if you decide to keep your Medicare supplement policy with 80 percent drug coverage and not enroll in the Medicare prescription drug plan now, you will still be able to enroll in a plan later and not have to pay a penalty. The penalty amounts to one percent for every month the Medicare beneficiary did not have creditable coverage.
You should also know that no new Medicare supplement policies with prescription drug coverage will be sold in Minnesota after Jan. 1, 2006. This could result in an increase in your premiums for the Medicare supplement because fewer people will be paying premiums for this type of coverage.
Here are your options:
*Drop the extended basic policy with 80 percent prescription drug coverage and purchase a basic Medicare supplement (basic Medicare supplemental policies in Minnesota currently range in cost from $72 to $168 per month). Then enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan for drug coverage.
Be aware that if you drop your extended basic policy, you will not be able to get it back.
*Drop your Medicare supplement policy and enroll in a Medicare advantage plan that provides both Medicare and supplemental coverage.
An example is Ethel, who is in the original Medicare plan (Parts A and B), plus she has a Medigap (Medicare supplement) policy with prescription drug coverage. Her Medigap insurer sent her a notice explaining her prescription drug choices. When she finds her Medigap policy isn't, on average, at least as good as standard Medicare prescription drug coverage, she decides to join a Medicare prescription drug plan. Once she does this, she will not be able to get prescription drug coverage from a Medigap plan, now or later.
As a result, she decides to keep her current Medigap policy with the drug coverage removed. She pays a monthly premium for her Medicare Part B, a new monthly Medigap policy premium (adjusted since the drug coverage is removed), plus a monthly premium for her Medicare prescription drug plan.
In order to get help making a decision, Ethel or anyone can call the Linkage Line for assistance at 1-800-333-2433. By Nov. 15, 2005, Ethel will receive a notice from her Medicare supplemental policy company informing her whether or not the prescription drug coverage she has is as good as the Medicare Part D drug coverage. If it is not as good as the Medicare Part D benefit and if she doesn't enroll in a Medicare Part D plan, she would have to pay a penalty if she enrolls at a later date. That's just one example. But you should know that all Minnesotans are eligible to join a Medicare prescription drug plan regardless of age, health, or income.
The enrollment period began on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
Seniors with questions also can call 1-800-MEDICARE for information or to sign up, or they can visit www.medicare.gov online.
(This article, the second in a series, was prepared by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Council on Aging.)
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