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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2005

Blagojevich Administration Launches Illinois Cares Rx Caravan
Caravan to Travel Statewide Ensuring No Illinois Senior or Person with Disability Will be Left Behind Under the Federal Prescription Drug Program

SPRINGFIELD – The Blagojevich Administration today launched the “Illinois Cares Rx Caravan” during Senior Day at the Illinois State Fair to promote the Illinois Cares Rx prescription drug program that will ensure no Illinois senior or person with disability will be left behind when the federal prescription drug program begins January 1, 2006.
 
“When Medicare drug benefits come on line in January, seniors in many other states will see their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drug go up.  But, not here in Illinois.  We are protecting coverage for hundreds of thousands of Illinois seniors and people with disabilities who rely on our network of prescription drug programs to help afford the medicines they need,” said Gov. Blagojevich.   “The ‘Illinois Cares Rx Caravan’ will reach out to people who qualify for the new federal program now, before enrollment starts, to make sure they understand how to join and how to avoid losing out where the federal plan leaves gaps in coverage.”  
 
The caravan will travel statewide for over six weeks from August 15 until September 29 with 24 stops reaching 22 cities.  Locations include senior centers, community centers and community colleges in an effort to reach all Illinois residents who need to be informed about this important benefit including seniors, persons with disabilities, and family members who will assist their loved ones in the application process.  Traveling on the caravan, agency directors, local elected officials, and outreach staff will provide information and resources for communities across Illinois.  Partnerships in the caravan include Illinois Rural Health Association, Illinois Pharmacists Association, AARP, Illinois State Medical Society, Make Medicare Work Coalition, Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the Chicago Department on Aging.
 
In June, Gov. Blagojevich signed the “No Senior or Person with Disability Left Behind” law, which created the Illinois Cares Rx program, the nation’s most comprehensive response to fill in the gaps created by the federal prescription drug program.  The Illinois Cares Rx program will take effect January 1, 2006, in conjunction with the start of the new Medicare prescription coverage.  The Governor’s goal is to provide a safety net for seniors and persons with disabilities when their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs go up under the federal program.
 
“By traveling to areas across the state armed with information, the ‘Illinois Cares Rx Caravan’ will help seniors and people with disabilities understand the state program and how it will help them afford the medicines they need,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).  “People across the state rely on our network of programs and we won’t let them fall through the cracks when the federal program begins in January.  I urge anyone interested in hearing about this program and upcoming changes to come join us when the caravan comes to your area.” 
 
“These new state and federal programs will have an important impact on the lives of most of the seniors and people with disabilities in our state,” said Charles D. Johnson, Director of the Illinois Department on Aging. “We are excited by the challenge to tell every family in Illinois about the changes in benefits at both the state and federal levels – and we are determined to meet that challenge.”
 
“Quality healthcare and affordable prescription drugs are critical for the more than one million persons served by the Department of Human Services (DHS),” said Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., DHS Secretary.  “The DHS network of programs will be a vital communication link for Illinoisans and keep them informed about Illinois Cares Rx and how it will benefit them.”
 
The federal Medicare Modernization Act helps seniors by paying 75 percent of prescription drug costs up to $2,250 after a $250 deductible with an average $35 per month premium.  Beneficiaries are responsible for all of their costs between $2,250 and $5,100, with the plan paying 95 percent of costs beyond that top threshold.  The gap where a beneficiary has to pay all the drug costs between $2,250 and $5,100 is commonly referred to as the “donut hole.”  
 
The new “wrap around coverage” provided to Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities through Illinois Cares Rx will help cover the increased costs of the Medicare program, including premium costs, coinsurance, coverage during the “donut,” and the deductible. 
 
For example, a senior whose income is around $19,900 for a family of two (160 percent of the federal poverty level) who has annual drug costs of $5,100 would have to spend over $4,000 in out of pocket costs if the new Illinois program did not exist, but less than $1,000 with the new Illinois program.  A senior who has $1,800 worth of drug spending would spend $120 on average in the new Illinois program but over $1,000 in Medicare if they did not receive assistance.
 
Illinois Cares Rx will cover those who were previously enrolled in either the SeniorCare drug program or the Circuit Breaker pharmaceutical assistance program.  Through this program, Gov. Blagojevich is ensuring that both groups are guaranteed the same coverage they previously received.  In addition, those who are not eligible for Medicare will have their current SeniorCare or Circuit Breaker pharmaceutical benefits maintained in the Illinois Cares Rx program.  The Illinois Cares Rx program will be administered by the HFS and the Illinois Department on Aging.
 
“Because of the complexity of the Medicare benefit program and the financial value of Illinois ‘wrap around coverage’, the Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) has been working with other state agencies to train thousands of volunteers who will provide one-on-one counseling to Medicare recipients and their families,” said Sinead Rice Madigan, SHIP Director.
 
As many as one-quarter of the 20.3 million seniors in the United States who will be using the federal benefits without low-income assistance are expected to have drug costs high enough to bump them into that coverage gap.  Since taking office, Gov. Blagojevich has been a proven leader when it comes to providing access to quality health care for Illinois families from young children to senior citizens, in stark contrast to methods taken by several other states such as Michigan and North Carolina.  Both states are eliminating their state prescription drug programs and transferring people completely to the Medicare drug program, which will significantly increase their out-of-pocket expenses.
 
The Illinois Cares Rx program is part of Gov. Blagojevich’s long standing effort to make sure that more people get more health care and better benefits, protect coverage for those who have health care, and help hospitals, doctors and nurses provide better health care.  Under the Blagojevich administration, Illinoisans benefit from a wide array of programs designed to assist them with the high cost of prescription drugs: SeniorCare, Circuit Breaker (soon to be Illinois Cares Rx), the Rx Buying Club and the I-SaveRx drug importation program.
 
In a comprehensive new format this year, the Illinois State Fair will feature 10 days of programs, materials and individual counseling to help seniors and people with disabilities learn about new prescription drug plans that begin Jan. 1, 2006.
 
Each day of the State Fair, the Department on Aging will offer programs and materials with continuous help – at any level needed – in the air-conditioned Illinois Building at the State Fair from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  A special feature will be private, computer-based counseling to ensure that people with Medicare and their families understand their options through the federal program and the new state program designed to fill the large gaps in support left by Medicare.
 
Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities who want to find out more about the Illinois Cares Rx program law should call the Department on Aging Help Line at 1-800-252-8966 or the Senior Health Insurance Program at 1-800-548-9034.  The Illinois Cares Rx caravan will be traveling to the following areas:
 
Alton
Jefferson Community Center
2603 N. Rodgers Ave, Alton
September 19 (2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Aurora
Asbury Towers
311 S. Lincolnway, North Aurora
September 13 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m)
Bloomington
Interstate Center
2301 W. Market, Bloomington
September 23 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Champaign
201 Lincoln Square, Urbana
September 17 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Chicago
Kennedy- King College
6800 S. Wentworth, Chicago
September 27 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. & 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Chicago
Truman College
1145 W. Wilson, Chicago
September 28 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. & 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Chicago
Duncan YMCA
1001 W. Roosevelt, Chicago
September 29 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. & 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Chicago Heights
Prairie State College
Halsted & Vollmer Rd, Chicago Heights
August 31 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. & 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Decatur
Decatur Senior Center
1430 N. 22nd, Decatur
September 8 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
East St Louis
Jordan Senior Center
6755 State St, East St Louis
September 19 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Effingham
Effingham Senior Center
209 S. Merchant, Effingham
September 22 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Hillside
Eisenhower Community Center
700 Speechley Blvd, Hillside
August 30 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. &-2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Joliet
Joliet West High School
409 N. Larkin, Joliet
September 10 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Marion
Williamson County Pavilion
1602 Sioux Dr, Marion
September 14 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Mt Vernon
Roland Lewis Center
Veteran's Park 800 S. 27th, Mt Vernon
September 21 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Norridge
Sieb Senior Center
7774 W. Irving Park, Norridge
September 1 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. & 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Northfield
North Shore Senior Center
161 Northfield Rd, Northfield
August 29 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m. & 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.)
Peoria
The Oaks Conference Center
4200 Washington, East Peoria
September 7 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Quincy
Quincy Senior Center
639 York, Quincy
September 20 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Rockford
NIU Outreach Campus
8500 E. State, Rockford
September 26 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m)
Rock Island
King Center
630 King Dr, Rock Island
September 16 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Springfield
Springfield Senior Center
701 W. Mason, Springfield
September 9 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Ullin
Shawnee Community College
8364 College Rd, Ullin
September 24 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
Waukegan
Waukegan Township Senior Services
411 S. Lewis, Waukegan
September 15 (9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)


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