By Senator John ThuneI want to take this opportunity to remind South Dakotans that the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit open season began November 15, 2007 and continues through December 31st.
Over 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota currently have prescription drug coverage. 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.
New Medicare beneficiaries in South Dakota have the option of enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan that is best for them beginning November 15th. Also, those individuals who are currently enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans have the option of changing their prescription drug coverage through the end of December.
South Dakota Medicare beneficiaries will also have greater access to Medicare Advantage health plans. These are similar to private health insurance plans and cover all Medicare benefits including physician visits, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. For Medicare Advantage plans only, beneficiaries can also make one change in enrollment - enrolling in a new plan, changing plans, or canceling a plan - between January 1 and March 31, 2008.
As a result of competition between plans and increased patient choice, prescription drug plans are adding drugs to their plans and providing more options with enhanced coverage. Additionally, Medicare covers important preventative benefits for seniors and all beneficiaries, including a first-time physical exam, and annual screenings for diabetes and heart disease.
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:
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
1-800-MEDICARE or 1-800-633-4227
www.medicare.gov or www.medicare.gov/pdphome.asp
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
Medicare is an important safety net and benefit for all of our seniors, and we need to make sure that beneficiaries have all the information they need to make the choices that are right for them.