In November 2003, Congress passed sweeping legislation to create Medicare Part D, a voluntary prescription drug plan to provide coverage to 42 million elderly and disabled Americans who qualify for Medicare coverage. I did not support this legislation because I think we can do better for our seniors. The bill contains language that states the Federal Government shall be prohibited from negotiating with the big drug manufacturers to bring down the high cost of medicine. Additionally, many seniors will experience a large gap in coverage for necessary medications, referred to as the ‘donut hole,’ during which beneficiaries pay their monthly premiums for the prescription drug program, while paying the full cost of their medications.
However, it is crucial the over 450,000 Arkansans eligible for the Medicare prescription drug benefit are armed with the resources, tools, and information necessary to determine the best plan to suit their needs, should they choose to enroll.
I urge beneficiaries to take time, be patient, and do ample research before signing up for a prescription drug benefit. Beneficiaries can enroll in a prescription drug plan from November 15, 2005 – until May 15, 2006. Those beneficiaries who enroll before December 31, 2005, should receive prescription drug coverage as soon as January 1, 2006. Medicare beneficiaries must register no later than May 15, 2006 for a prescription drug plan to receive benefits in 2006 and to avoid a permanent financial penalty for late enrollment. Finally, if you are unhappy with the Medicare Drug Benefit you have chosen for yourself, you will be able to switch plans on November 15, 2006. You are not locked into a prescription drug plan for a lifetime.
To find information and determine a plan to suit your prescription drug needs, you may visit my website at http://www.house.gov/ross/hot_topics.shtml, call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit their website, www.medicare.gov. I also encourage you visit the following websites that provide a wealth of important information and answer frequently asked questions:
Link to Basic Medicare Prescription
Description of Plans
Medicare and You Handbook
Frequently Asked Questions
Qualify for Assistance?
As the holiday season approaches, I encourage you to reach out to members of your community, friends, and family who are eligible for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage and provide assistance in this complex selection process. There is no question the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan is complicated and confusing, but I encourage you to utilize the available resources to help you make sense of the maze of information.