CHICAGO – As seniors around the country get ready for Medicare Part D’s open enrollment season starting tomorrow, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today urged Illinois seniors to apply for Illinois Cares Rx, which provides wrap-around prescription drug coverage to fill in the gaps created by Medicare Part D. In addition, Illinois Cares Rx offers unbiased Medicare counseling to help seniors find the drug program that best suits their needs and to make sure they are getting all of the benefits they are eligible for. Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities who want to find out more about the Illinois Cares Rx program should call Gov. Blagojevich’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966.
“We created Illinois Cares Rx to make sure that no senior or person with a disability would be left behind by Medicare Part D. And in the first year, we helped close to 250,000 Illinoisans avoid falling into the Medicare coverage gap so they could continue getting the prescription drugs they needed to stay healthy,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I urge all seniors to check to see if they’re eligible for Illinois Cares Rx, and make sure you get all of the benefits you qualify for.”
Medicare recipients will be able to select a federal drug plan for the first time or change their plans during the “open enrollment season” which starts on November 15 and runs through December 31. Illinois Medicare recipients are urged to take the time to review the plan they currently have based on changes in their health, in the plan and in other plans that might have benefits that better suit their needs and/or lower overall costs. Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities can apply for Illinois Cares Rx at any point during the year.
Last month, Gov. Blagojevich announced a statewide training tour for Illinois Cares Rx counselors, which trained over 1,150 volunteers to help families determine which plan makes the most sense for them or their loved ones.
At the Governor’s direction, program managers worked with prescription insurance providers to increase options this year for seniors, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS who are eligible for Medicare. Illinois Cares Rx will also continue to provide prescription coverage to eligible persons who do not have Medicare.
In 2007, the standard federal Medicare Part D prescription drug program will pay 75 percent of prescription drug costs up to $2,400 after a $265 deductible with an average $24.00 per month premium. Beneficiaries are responsible for all of their costs between $2,400 and $5,451.25, 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 $2,400 and $5,451.25 is commonly referred to as the “donut hole.” Illinois Cares Rx provides a safety net for seniors and persons with disabilities so that their out-of-pocket costs do not increase when they are in the donut hole.
The Medicare Part D stand-alone prescription drug plans currently coordinating with Illinois Cares Rx are the AARP MedicareRx Plan and UnitedHealth Rx Basic (previously known as PacifiCare Saver Plan) from United Healthcare. The Medicare Advantage companies currently coordinating with Illinois Cares Rx are Group Health Plan, Health Alliance, OSF Health Plans, United Healthcare Medicare Complete and WellCare. All of these plans will continue to coordinate benefits with the Illinois Cares Rx program in 2007. In addition, two new plans have been added for 2007, WellCare Signature prescription drug plan and HealthSpring Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan. The stand-alone prescription drug plans are available statewide. Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans may be available only in certain areas.
In June 2005 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. Illinois Cares Rx took effect January 1, 2006, in conjunction with the start of the new Medicare prescription coverage and has provided extra assistance to nearly 245,000 Illinois Cares Rx members and other Medicare beneficiaries.