The Medicare Prescription Drug plan is voluntary, and seniors and people with disabilities will not be forced to join the Medicare drug program.
The main drug benefit goes into effect on January 1, 2006, and all Medicare beneficiaries in Kentucky will be able to get prescription drug coverage through a Medicare-approved drug plan. In exchange for a monthly premium of about $37, and meeting a deductible of $250, seniors will be able to receive prescription drug coverage on brand name and generic drugs. This is real progress for our seniors and those who are beneficiaries of Medicare.
As a member of the Senate Finance Committee I helped craft this bill to help our most needy seniors. As a result, Kentuckians who have limited savings and low incomes, generally below 150 percent of the poverty level, will be eligible for additional financial assistance. Many will get help with their monthly premiums and co-pays for their prescription drug coverage.
Last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) began sending out applications to low-income Medicare beneficiaries who may be eligible for the financial assistance. In Kentucky, about 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries should receive an application. Beneficiaries must return their applications to the SSA to determine if they qualify for the financial assistance. If they do, these beneficiaries must sign up for a drug plan later this year to receive the extra help.
Also, those Kentuckians who are "duel eligible"- those who are enrolled in Medicaid or receiving help with their Medicare premiums- will be automatically enrolled to receive the additional assistance.
We must protect our seniors who cannot afford the ever increasing prices of prescription drugs. Low-income seniors are at a higher risk of not taking care of themselves because of the costs of medicines. The Medicare Prescription Drug Bill will provide relief to those seniors who struggle everyday to buy the prescription drugs they need.
As January 2006 quickly approaches, Medicare beneficiaries will start receiving more information about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. With this new program there will be some bumps in the road, but please be patient because the benefits that are in this new program will help many seniors and beneficiaries who would otherwise be on their own.
For more information about applying for the financial assistance, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or apply online at www.socialsecurity.com.