Today's program is in answer to a query from one of our viewers.
According to the Medicare web site, the information started with the phrase, "interim final rule." According to my dictionary, interim means temporary and final means last or concluding. Unfortunately, this does not make sense to many seniors who are looking for relief from the high cost of drugs, the new law may not make much sense either.
In May of this year, people on Medicare may apply for a drug discount card. You are not eligible for this card if you are on Medicaid or are retired military or a retired federal employee.
This card will allow a 15 to 25% discount on certain drugs. If you are very low income and not on Medicaid, you may be eligible for a $600 credit on this card. That means that these people can spend this card like a debit card until the amount is used up.
The card will expire in December of 2005 and will be replaced by the voluntary drug reimbursement program. There will be a $250 deductible and a monthly charge or $35. You will then pay 25% of the cost of certain drugs until your expenses reach $2,250. Then the program stops paying until your costs reach $3,600. This is called the dough nut hole. After $3,600, Medicare will pay 95% of the cost of drugs.
Remember: this is the interim final rule and given new information on the possible cost of the program, the rules are likely to change again before any of us sees a penny of the benefit.
People who already have a drug benefit as a part of their retirement package, may not benefit from the drug card-even though they are eligible. You will have to do your math to see if the drugs you use are covered and for how much.
When the second part of this drug payment plan goes into effect in 2006, no new drug coverage will be sold as part of Medigap policies. You will have the choice to stay with your current plan or go with the Medicare plan. That is, if your insurance hasn't already canceled out your drug benefit.