Recent Op-Eds

Starting on November 15, new Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota will have the option of enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan and those currently enrolled in a plan will have the option of changing their prescription drug coverage. Medicare beneficiaries satisfied with their current coverage will not have to take any action during the open enrollment period. Enrollment ends on December 31.

Approximately 98,000 Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota are currently enrolled in a prescription drug plan. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency which oversees the Medicare program, seniors enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans are saving an average of $1,200 per year on their prescription drug costs.

There are some changes in the Medicare prescription drug plans offered in South Dakota for 2007, so I would encourage Medicare beneficiaries to carefully weigh their options. Twenty-six plans will offer enhanced benefits or services, such as coverage in the gap and little or no deductible. Additionally, 32 plans will have zero deductibles and four plans will have a monthly premium below $20. Medicare plans that provide coverage through the gap will have premiums as low as $47.50, and in general these plans will have monthly premiums for under $50.

South Dakota Medicare beneficiaries will also have greater access to Medicare Advantage health plans. Medicare Advantage plans are similar to private health insurance plans and cover all Medicare benefits including physician visits, hospital stays and prescription drugs.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit is not perfect. I have been working with my colleagues in the Senate as well as the Administration to correct inefficiencies experienced during the first enrollment period. However, surveys consistently show over 80 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are satisfied with their current drug plans. Additionally, as a result of strong private market competition, prescription drug plans are adding drugs to their plans and providing more options with enhanced coverage.

Several organizations are ready to help Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota find prescription drug coverage that is right for them. South Dakota seniors can contact the following organizations to help them enroll. You may also contact my office at 1-866-850-3855.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)
1-800-MEDICARE or 1-800-633-4227 or

Senior Health Information and Insurance Education (SHIINE)

South Dakota Social Security Offices (for questions about extra help for people with limited incomes)

South Dakota Department of Social Services