Medicare makeover: which plan is right for you?

Beginning Nov. 15, Medicare is offering prescription drug coverage to anyone enrolled in or eligible for Medicare.

This is an important and beneficial development for millions of American seniors. For the many Washingtonians who live with or care for their parents, this Medicare plan presents an opportunity to save money on necessary prescriptions. In a time when skyrocketing healthcare and drug costs have left seniors and their families with large bills and few options, the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is something worth considering.

Savings for seniors

According to new information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Washingtonians will be able to obtain the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for an average monthly premium of $32.50.

A study released by Medicare Today shows that low-income Washingtonians on Medicare now pay an average of $1,485 per year out of pocket for prescription drugs. The study states that under the new Medicare Drug Plan, more than 140,174 Washingtonians are eligible to receive benefits that would lower their costs to an average of $161 per year - an annual savings of $1,324.

In the next several months, seniors will be faced with several important decisions that will affect their prescription drug coverage.

Here are a few ways to avoid confusion and save money on the drugs seniors need:

1) Check the mail. Now and through October, seniors who have any prescription coverage through their pensions, former employers or private providers will receive a "Credible Coverage Letter." Hang on to it. It informs seniors if the coverage they have is better or worse than what is available through the new Medicare plan.

2) Gather more information. Contact your local State Health Insurance Benefit Advocates office by calling 1-800-562-6900. SHIBA will assist individual seniors in finding the best option for them. The Inter-net is full of great resources that should be shared; and are good places to start.

3) Sit down with family members and have a frank conversation about assets, income and drug costs. Get together on making a decision this fall so seniors won't be left out.

At a time when the budgets of many families are already tight, this potential savings could mean the difference between financial success and financial stress for seniors and families that care for them.

Upcoming Medicare Today information seminars for seniors and their families in the Seattle Area:

Saturday, Oct. 1: Medicare Part D Q&A and Health Fair, noon-4 p.m., Seattle Center House, 305 Harrison St.

Tuesday, Oct. 4: Medicare Part D Q&A, 10:30 a.m.-noon, Ballard NW Senior Center, 5429 32nd Ave. N.W.

Oct. 24: Medicare Part D Q&A, 1-2:30 p.m., Tallmadge Hamilton House, 5225 15th Ave. N.E.

For more information or to RSVP, phone Sheila Stickel, 282-5544.

Seniors who are eligible are encouraged to enroll early. Those who elect to enroll after May 15, 2006, may be subject to a late-enrollment penalty. To access Medicare Today's interactive tools or to locate Medicare Today activities, visit

[[In-content Ad]]