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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
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Advocating for Older Citizens

The New Federal Drug Benefit: Medicare Part D


IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER

October 1, 2005 - Marketing of plans begins
 

Medicare-approved prescription drug plans began releasing information about their coverage and costs. These plans may contact you directly with information in an effort to persuade you to choose their plan. Go to HOW CAN I SURVIVE THE MARKETING AVALANCHE AND AVOID SCAMS for tips on how to benefit from this marketing without making a hasty decision or falling victim to scams.

       
Mid-October, 2005 - Medicare information handbook and “Drug Plan Finder”
 

CMS mailed to Medicare-eligible individuals the “Medicare & You 2006" handbook with up-to-date information on Medicare and the prescription drug benefit. By calling 1-800-MEDICARE or going to the Medicare Web site, you will also be able to compare drug plans offered in your area.

ALERT: Medicare's handbook "Medicare & You 2006" mailed in early October 2005 contains an error in the comparison charts of drug plans beginning with page 97-A. The column "If I Qualify for Extra Help, Will My Full Premium be Covered?" erroneously lists "Yes" for every plan. In fact, 60 percent of the Prescription Drug Plans listed should have a "No" in this column. Copies of the "Medicare & You 2006" book posted at www.medicare.gov are accurate.

       
Fall 2005 - Notices of creditable coverage from private insurers
 

Employers and unions must notify their members about how their current prescription drug coverage compares with the Medicare Part D benefit, whether the private coverage will continue, etc.

       
November 15, 2005 - Enrollment begins
 

Medicare-eligible individuals can enroll anytime between November 15, 2005, and May 15, 2006. You MUST enroll by December 31, 2005, to receive coverage starting January 1, 2006, the earliest possible date for coverage to begin.

       
January 1, 2006 - Coverage can begin
 

For those who enroll by December 31, 2005, coverage will begin January 1, 2006.

       
April 2006 - Enrollment reminders
 

Reminders will be sent to all Medicare-eligible individuals who have not yet enrolled.

       
May 15, 2006 - Last date for enrollment
 

This is the LAST DAY TO ENROLL. The next open enrollment period, when you can change your plan, will begin November 15, 2006. May 15 is a VERY IMPORTANT DATE because if you are eligible and do not enroll by that day, you may have to pay a penalty of one percent per month delayed for enrolling later, depending on the type of coverage you currently have.

You will avoid the penalty if you currently have "creditable coverage" under another prescription drug plan which meets Medicare guidelines, but check with that plan to make sure it qualifies you to avoid the penalty later.  Your plan should send you a "Notice of Creditable Coverage."

If you do receive a “Notice of Creditable Coverage,” be very careful and seek additional information and help before signing up for Medicare Part D, as doing so may jeopardize not only your current prescription drug coverage but all of the supplemental health insurance coverage you now have.

       

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