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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich announces expanded hours to help seniors sign up for Medicare Part D and Illinois Cares Rx before May 15 deadline
State agencies will expand weekend hours, add staff, keep hotline open until Midnight on May 15th

CHICAGO – With time running out, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that state agencies will extend weekend staff and hotline hours through midnight on May 15th to ensure last minute applications for the federal Medicare Part D program and the state’s Illinois Cares Rx program are processed in time. In addition, enrollment events are taking place across the state, and the nearly 200 Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) locations and 13 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) will continue to provide one-on-one assistance through Monday.
“With time running out for Illinois seniors to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, I have directed state agencies to do everything possible to help senior citizens with last minute applications, so they can get the prescription drug coverage they need,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We are urging seniors to sign up for not only Medicare Part D, but for our new Illinois Cares Rx program, which fills in the holes in the federal program and makes sure they don’t face any gaps in coverage.”

In an effort to further assist those seniors who have yet to enroll in these important programs, the following staffing and hotline hours have been expanded:

Friday, May 12, 2006
· The Illinois Cares Rx Hotline (1-800-506-1998) hours will be from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.
· The IDoA Senior HelpLine (1-800-252-8966) hours will be from 8:00 a.m. until 5:45 p.m.
· The Health Benefits Hotline (1-800-226-0768) hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
· The SHIP Hotline (1-800-548-9034) hours will be from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 13, 2006:
· The Illinois Cares Rx Hotline (1-800-506-1998) will be adding extra staff and hours will be from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
· The IDoA Senior HelpLine (1-800-252-8966) hours will be extended from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
· SHIP staff will be working from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to return any remaining phone messages.
· The Health Benefits Hotline (1-800-226-0768) staff will work overtime to extend hours of operation from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Sunday, MOTHER’S DAY, May 14, 2006:
· The Illinois Cares Rx Hotline (1-800-506-1998) will be operating special Sunday hours from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Monday, May 15, 2006
· The Illinois Cares Rx Hotline (1-800-506-1998) hours will be extended from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
· The IDoA Senior HelpLine (1-800-252-8966) hours will be extended from 8:00 a.m. until Midnight.
· The Health Benefits Hotline (1-800-226-0768) hours will be extended from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
· The SHIP Hotline (1-800-548-9034) hours will be extended from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

The Illinois Departments on Aging (IDoA) and Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) along with the Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) have been working together since August 2005 hosting Medicare Part D and Illinois Cares Rx enrollment events in over 250 communities, staffing hotlines, and providing one on one counseling at hundred of locations across the state.

Those who are unable to enroll in Medicare Part D by May 15, 2006 will not have another chance to enroll until November 15, 2006, face financial penalty and not actually receive benefits until January 1, 2007.

Gov. Blagojevich’s Illinois Cares Rx program allows Illinois’ low-income seniors and persons with disabilities, including those who have been getting prescription drug assistance through state programs, to avoid high out-of-pocket expenses and gaps in coverage created by the new Medicare Part D program.

The federal Medicare Modernization Act has a $250 deductible and then pays 75 percent of prescription drug costs after that deductible up to $2,250 worth of drugs with an average $32 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 “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.

Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities who want to find out if they are eligible for or enroll in the Illinois Cares Rx program, need assistance with Medicare Part D enrollment or who would like to know the nearest location of one of the over 200 SHIP offices, should call the Department on Aging Help Line at 1-800-252-8966, the Senior Health Insurance Program at 1-800-548-9034 or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org or www.idfpr.com/DOI/Ship/ship_volunteers.asp.


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