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Medicare Drug Deadline: Experts Prescribe Quick Action

December 7, 2006

Madison, WI - A deadline is looming on low-cost prescription drugs for seniors and people with disabilities. The Medicare "Part D" open enrollment period runs until the end of the year, and eligible Wisconsinites are being encouraged to sign up or make any changes in their current coverage as soon as possible.

Lisa Lamkins with AARP Wisconsin says it pays to sign up for "Part D." She also has some "prescriptions" for Congress to improve the plan, including filling gaps in coverage and allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prices.

"If Medicare had the ability to negotiate drug prices, it would lower prices not only for Medicare beneficiaries, but would also help out taxpayers and actually end up driving prescription costs down, across the board."

Lamkins gives credit to Wisconsin's "Senior Care" program, which gives state seniors additional coverage options not available elsewhere.

Experts say Wisconsinites who already signed up should review their coverage, and see if they could benefit by making a change. Aimee McCutcheon Nash, of the group Disability Rights Wisconsin, says there's room for improvement in Part D, especially for people with disabilities.

"Problems range from confusion up to not being able to get their drugs covered, or not having insurance in place when they should."

She claims many people with disabilities have found themselves without coverage for a month or more, and that many were better off under the old Medicaid coverage.

"For half the people with disabilities, it's a new insurance they didn't have before; but for the other half, they already had insurance and they're actually going onto something with less coverage."

Medicare Part D help is available toll-free; people under age 60 can call 800-926-4862; seniors can call 866-456-8211.

Rob Ferrett/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WI