Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fraud concern as drug plan sign-ups start

November 17, 2005

For senior citizens, Medicare Part D is about ready to drop.

Senior citizens gained the ability to sign up for the new prescription drug discount program last Tuesday.

The implications of it could be a great thing for the senior citizens, but until Jan. 1, when the new program goes into effect, they face a threat, said Dr. Daniel Dickerson of Eudora Family Care.

"It appears there are a lot of people calling our older people. They're giving people calls saying they can help set them up," Dickerson said.

The concern for Dickerson is that there's no national company he knows of that's licensed to do that.

The potential for trouble is worse when the company asks for a Social Security number.

"It's a potential for fraud," Dickerson said.

Although the initial signing period for the program will last until Jan. 1, seniors will be able to sign up through April without penalty, Dickerson said.

"Basically, bottom line, if they don't sign up now it's going to cost them in the future," Dickerson said.

Medicare D could be beneficial for some, Dickerson said.

He said he wants to "make sure people sign up for Medicare Part D if they don't have any prescription coverage," Dickerson said. "Almost everyone will benefit from it."

Pharmacist Stan Byrne, owner of Byrne's Pharmacy, agreed.

"It's probably going to change the face of pharmacy forever and ever," Byrne said.

The threat of penalty for signing up late, although still more than a month away, could make education on the subject more valuable.

"The penalty thing is their way of trying to get everyone involved right off the bat, and I think that's where the panic is coming," Byrne said. "I think we've got time to study this."

Byrne said he's willing to talk with all his customers to find the best fit for them.

"I think the first thing is that people are going to be pressured into signing something they're not familiar with," Byrne said.

The situation could be compounded ith Medicare D, because different insurance companies and plans work with it in different ways.

"To some people it's a pretty complicated process," Byrne said.

A person wanting to sign up for the program needs to make sure that's what they really want because they would be stuck with the program until Nov. 15, 2006, Byrne said.

Before people sign with anything they have to be sure the program would be right for them, Byrne said.

"Then, of course, they have to weigh the differences between how much medications they are taking based on the actual cost of what this program is going to be," Byrne said.

On average, the program will cost $600 to $800 per year, Byrne said.

As Byrne advised his customers on which program may be best for them, he went over their list of medications and made sure he found a plan that would get them the medicine they needed.

Byrne said different insurance companies used different formularies and sometimes people may not get their exact brand of medicine.

The companies do, however, carry at least two drugs in every major class.

"So basically there will be something to switch to that will be equal," Byrne said.

Besides Byrne's willing advice, he'll have booklets on hand to explain the different options available with different medical plans.

He has also attended various seminars.

Eventually Byrne plans on having a representative from Community Care help sign residents up for a program that will suit their needs.

Because of a backlog with the representatives who are able to sign the senior citizens up for the program, the pharmacy has yet to set a date for the meeting.

In the meantime, employees at Byrne's Pharmacy have been suggesting to their customers that they watch a program aimed at demystifying Medicare Part D at 7 p.m. Saturday on CNBC Sunflower Cablevision Channel 40.

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