Medicaid Prescription Benefit Program Deadline

The deadline to sign up for the new federal prescription benefit program is fast approaching. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is on a bus tour trying to get the word out to seniors and others who qualify. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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The deadline is May 15th. The next enrollment period for the new drug benefit plan will be in November. The bus tour stopped at the Houston office of the NAACP where organizations were helping seniors, including Gilbert Paul, wade through the information.

"You'll be able to switch from November the 15th to the end of the year."

"I'll switch because I get another medication or what."

"Right each plan, each insurance provider, has a formulary which is their list of drugs they are covering. At the end of the year when they have open enrollment you can decide to change companies to get a better price your drugs."

"OK, all right sounds good."

"Do you want to take it home and think about it?"

"Yeah sure"

"Because you can enroll today if you want."

"No, I'll take it and think about it."

Paul has been paying for his medications out of pocket.

"For me it's only probably around $120 a month which is not much, but I never know if I ever have to have another type of medication."

Lucille Harris started learning about the options through her church. She says it takes people talking to people in the community to help seniors make the decision to sign up. Harris now helps others.

"They had heard about it on the radios and television. But when they had a real live person like myself that was able to say this is what I'm able to do. I'm paying 175 a month for my prescription medication for five. I'm able to reduce that and pay 39 dollars per month and get the same name brand medication."

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Mark McClellan says the over all program is already seeing savings also.

"When Congress was passing this law they expected that the drug benefit itself was going to cost people about 37 dollars a month just for the premium and it's turned out to be much less than that because people are looking into this. I was talking about this earlier, signing up for a drug plan probably isn't the most fun thing you are going to do between now and May 15th, but it's probably the most important thing you're going to do from the stand point of your health and the stand point of your finances."

Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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