Medicare Drug Enrollment Opens Today

Medicare Drug Enrollment Opens Today

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Richard Piatt ReportingA prescription drug benefit for seniors could be a very good thing. But on the first day to enroll in Medicaid's new plan, there's an overwhelming response and a lot of questions.

This is the first day of a six-month enrollment period for the new 'Medicaid--Part D' plan. Across the nation, and here in Utah, there is anxiety about which plan to choose. For senior citizens who pay a lot of money for prescriptions, one of these plans could be a very good thing. But most seniors don't have a clear-cut choice and are confused by the 44-plus options to pick from.

The West Jordan Senior Center is just one of thousands of places where people are listening, learning, and trying to understand what Medicaid Part D means to them.

Marlene Bunkall: "You don't know which way to go. You don't know what plan to choose, which pharmacy will cover what plan you choose. There's all these questions."

Esther Atkinson: "I don't like it. I wish I could understand it better, but my daughter will help me with it."

The new Medicare Prescription drug benefit is open to all seniors, but they have to sign up between now and May 15th of next year. The benefit comes at a cost: A premium, and deductible apply for most plans. There is a break for low-income seniors who qualify. The catch is that seniors will have to actively pick a plan, and most people don't know which of the 44-plus plans might be best for them.

Bert Blanchfield: "I've been getting some in the mail about which way to go that will be 28-35 dollars a month. And here, we're not paying that the whole year."

The good news is that people like Lindy Barnes of Salt Lake County Aging services are available to help. And there are six months for them to figure it out.

Deb Scott, Salt Lake County Aging Services: "We don't want them to throw up their hands and say, 'Oh my gosh this is too confusing for me.' We want them to know there is help available."

Seniors who don't have someone to help them can get that help through their local senior citizen centers, for one. Pharmacies have information, and there is also a screening tool on Medicaid's web site.

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