CHICAGO - As the year comes to a close, so does the Medicare Part D open enrollment period. Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today urged Illinois seniors who have not enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan to do so by midnight Sunday, December 31 to avoid paying an additional fee for not enrolling by the federal deadline. Seniors who are satisfied with their current plan do not need to do anything. The Governor also urged Illinois seniors to apply for Illinois Cares Rx wrap-around prescription drug coverage to fill in the gaps created by Medicare Part D. Seniors with questions about Medicare Part D or Illinois Cares Rx can call Governor Blagojevich’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org.
“Every senior should have prescription drug coverage that ensures they’re getting the best deal on the medications they need. I encourage all Illinoisans who are eligible for Medicare to take time this weekend to compare the prescription plans offered through Part D and sign up for benefits,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “At the same time, seniors can check to see if they’re eligible for Illinois Cares Rx to provide total coverage, even where the federal program leaves gaps.”
Medicare recipients who miss the federally mandated deadline will pay about a one percent penalty for each month they delay in enrolling once they are eligible. Most people who are currently eligible for Medicare Part D and do not enroll in a plan until the open enrollment period next fall will be assessed a 12 month late enrollment penalty for the duration of their participation in the program.
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. 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 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.” Seniors and persons with disabilities can fill out an application for Illinois Cares Rx via the Internet by visiting their local Agency on Aging or senior center, or by calling Gov. Blagojevich’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966.
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, 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.