New Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit

Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole was in Houston encouraging seniors to sign up for the new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. The enrollment period ends May 15th. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports ...

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Medicare officials say more than 26 million people have enrolled to date ... that's about 60 percent of the eligible population nationwide. Officials say Texas is near the top of the list. The new benefit has been criticized as being too confusing. Dole says seniors can do some simple things to narrow down the choices.

"I think we can still function. We can still think. We can still say if this is a dollar and this is two dollars, then the dollar is less (laughter from audience).

Texas has 47 plans for people to choose from. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Deputy Administrator Leslie Norwalk says people should consider cost, coverage and convenience when selecting a plan. She explains that the federal government pays about three-quarters of the premiums which comes from general revenue.

"because of competition and negotiated prices, the expense of the plan for 2006 alone is costing the tax payer $5 billion less than estimated, a full 20 percent less because of competition and better prices. So the average premium for beneficiaries was thought to be $37, it's acutally turned out to be $25, and that savings is terrific for both the beneficiary and for the tax payer."

Norwalk warned seniors not to share any information with a Medicare representative unless the senior was the one to make the call. She says Medicare will not initiate a phone call seeking personal information. More information about how to select a plan is on the website KUHF dot org. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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