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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich urges Illinois seniors to apply for Illinois Cares Rx as open enrollment season begins for Medicare Part D
To find out more about Illinois’ wrap-around prescription drug program, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966

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, and offers drug coverage for people who do not have Medicare.  Illinois seniors and persons with disabilities who want to find out more about the Illinois Cares Rx program should call the Senior Helpline at 1-800-252-8966 or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org.
 
“We created Illinois Cares Rx to help make sure that Illinois seniors wouldn’t fall through the Medicare coverage gap. And in the first two years, we have helped over 210,000 seniors continue to get the prescription drugs they need,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “As open enrollment for Medicare Part D begins, I urge all seniors to check to see if they’re eligible for Illinois Cares Rx, and make sure they get all of the benefits they 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 their current plans, 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. 
 
In 2008, the standard federal Medicare Part D prescription drug program will pay 75 percent of prescription drug costs up to $2,510 after a $275 deductible with an average $30.26 per month premium.  Beneficiaries are responsible for all of their costs between $2,510 and $5,726.25, 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 $2,510 and $5,726.50 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. 
 
To receive Illinois Cares Rx benefits, members must be in a Medicare Part D plan coordinating with Illinois Cares Rx.  The Medicare Part D stand-alone prescription drug plans coordinating with Illinois Cares Rx in 2008 are AARP MedicareRx Preferred, First Health Part D – Premier, Humana PDP Standard, SilverScript, UnitedHealth Rx Basic, and WellCare Signature.  The Medicare Advantage companies coordinating with Illinois Cares Rx in 2008 are Essence Healthcare, Group Health Plan, Health Alliance, HealthSpring, Humana, OSF Health Plans, PersonalCare Insurance of Illinois, Inc., SecureHorizons, Evercare and Erickson all from United Healthcare, and WellCare.  The stand-alone prescription drug plans are available statewide.  Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans may be available only in certain areas of the state.
 
Individuals eligible for the Illinois Cares Rx program may also be eligible for additional benefits from the State’s Circuit Breaker program.  The Circuit Breaker program provides a property tax relief grant for individuals who pay property tax on their residence or rent or nursing home charges on a residence that is subject to property tax.  In addition, the program provides an annual $54.00 discount on the license plate fee for one vehicle.  These benefits, including Illinois Cares Rx, can be accessed by applying on one application.
 
In 2006, Gov. Blagojevich and the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) made the Illinois Cares Rx applications available online to make it easier and quicker to apply for benefits and to accommodate the increasing number of older persons accessing the World Wide Web.  Several recent studies show that seniors are the fastest growing population of Internet users.  Last year the number of Illinois Cares Rx Internet applications more than doubled when nearly 159,000 people took advantage of the Internet to file their Illinois Cares Rx applications and Circuit Breaker claims, compared to 75,288 filed online in all of 2005. 
 
Before logging on to the Internet, individuals should have the following information available: Social Security number(s), amount of property taxes paid in 2006, amount of rent paid in 2006, and a copy of 2006 federal tax returns. Individuals can file their 2006 applications through the end of the year. However, the 2007 application will not be made available until mid January, 2008.
 
The IDoA, Illinois Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP), in conjunction with the Medicare Rights Center and the Illinois Department on Aging, has developed a series of web-based learning opportunities for organizations that assist Illinois’ Medicare beneficiaries.  On November 20 at 2:00, a Webinar will address how to successfully navigate the Part D Plan Finder on Medicare.gov to find a plan that suits each beneficiary's needs.  On December 4, the Webinar will focus on Medicare Part D, Medicare Supplements, private plans such as HMOs and PPOs, and Medicare Savings Programs.  The next session is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. C.S.T. on Tuesday, December 4.  Future sessions will focus on low-income assistance, Medicare Savings Plans and Illinois Cares Rx and Medigap Plans.  For more information about these seminars, contact SHIP at 1-800-548-9034, or send an e-mail to FPR.ship@illinois.gov.
 
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. 
 
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 Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior Help Line at 1-800-252-8966 (888-206-1327 TTY), the Senior Health Insurance Program at 1-800-548-9034 or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org.


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