MEDICARE ANNOUNCES NEW WAYS TO HELP LOW-INCOME BENEFICIARIES GET BIG SAVINGS USING MEDICARE DRUG DISCOUNT CARDS
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today announced new steps to make it even easier for people on Medicare with limited incomes to get large savings on their drug costs, paying as little as $15, by enrolling in Medicare-approved drug discount cards plus transitional financial assistance.
“With the Medicare drug discount card, no one on Medicare with limited means should be choosing between drugs and other basic necessities like food and rent, so we’re going to keep doing all we can to make sure that as many beneficiaries as possible take advantage of the savings in this program,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Director Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. “All you have to do to get started is call 1-800-MEDICARE.”
First, Medicare is making it easier for beneficiaries who may use up their $600 credit to find a Medicare-endorsed drug card that provides large additional “wraparound” discounts from drug manufacturers on their drugs. Wraparound discounts give beneficiaries access to brand-name prescriptions that cost as little as $15 or even less, after the $600 credit has been used up. Medicare’s enhanced “Price Compare” tool -- available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or on www.medicare.gov– will now identify the top five cards for a low-income beneficiary, based on the total cost of their drugs before and after their $600 credit is used.
Another important enhancement gives beneficiaries with limited incomes to enroll in the $600 credit by providing their eligibility information over the phone or online instead of completing and mailing a paper enrollment form. (Enrollment in the drug discount card has always been possible over the phone and online.) This may be particularly valuable for those who assist beneficiaries, including beneficiary advocates, who can now provide complete enrollment in the drug card and the transitional assistance at one time.
Other enhancements for beneficiaries or those who are assisting them through the www.medicare.gov website, and which are also available to callers to 1-800-MEDICARE, include:
- A new pharmacy search feature that allows users to select the drug card program or programs available at their local pharmacies. They can also get detailed cost information about that local pharmacy. This feature is particularly important to seniors who prefer to use their local pharmacy for their prescription needs.
- New features to make it easier to get additional information about the drug manufacturer wraparound programs that provide large additional discounts on certain name-brand drugs. The website will display a link to get more information about the programs.
“These new improvements are part of our aggressive effort to make sure seniors and others on Medicare have all the tools we can come up with to help them save money on their prescriptions,” McClellan said.
People on Medicare who do not receive prescription drug coverage through Medicaid are eligible for a Medicare-approved drug discount card. Numerous independent studies have found real savings available right now. For example, the Kaiser Foundation said discounts of over 20 percent are available on brand-name drugs.
Medicare beneficiaries whose incomes are below $12,569 for singles and $16,862 for married couples are eligible for the $600 credit if they do not have other drug coverage.
On Wednesday, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and Dr. McClellan announced that nearly two million low-income Americans on Medicare will receive a drug discount card in the mail next month, which they can begin to use immediately to get savings at pharmacies. In addition to receiving the card, beneficiaries will also receive instructions on how to activate the $1,200 benefit. To do so recipients will have to verify by phone that they meet income guidelines and do not have other drug coverage.
A CMS analysis has found that beneficiaries can save from 44 percent to 77 percent off the average retail price for name brand drugs when they combine the lower cost drugs with the $600 credit. Savings will be larger, often exceeding 90 percent, when the credit is combined with the aforementioned “wraparound” program from drug manufacturers or with other savings opportunities like generic drugs.
To start getting savings on the drug card and many other state programs and private discount programs, beneficiaries who are struggling with drug costs can call 1-800-MEDICARE anytime.