Nov. 16, 2006                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      The six-week window for Montanans to alter their Medicare prescription drug plans begins this week
      First year of program proved to be rocky; smoother second go-around anticipated
      Montana State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner John Morrison is reminding Montana Medicare beneficiaries that the annual Part D open enrollment period is open from now until December 31, 2006.
      “The first year of the Medicare prescription drug plan sparked headaches and confusion for many Montana seniors,” said Morrison. “But I am hearing that officials are hopeful the second go-round will run smoother because of the familiarity.”
      The open enrollment period provides beneficiaries with the opportunity to enroll in a Part D plan or, if they have already enrolled, to switch to another Part D or Medicare Advantage plan. Coverage will begin January 1, 2007. The Insurance Department along with the Department of Health and Human Services together run the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) which is the state's lead agency for Medicare prescription drug coverage information and enrollment assistance.
      "Beneficiaries should seriously consider enrolling in Medicare prescription drug coverage, which can provide a 50 percent savings on their prescription drug costs," said Morrison. "Many plans are available so beneficiaries can best match their prescription drug needs with their budget. Trained SHIP volunteers are available at 1-800-551-3191 to answer any questions and to provide enrollment assistance."
      The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that 53 Part D plans are available in Montana for 2007 coverage. The monthly premium range is $10.60 - $110.30
      and a total of 15 plans provide coverage during the "gap" or "doughnut hole" period. There are 32 plans with $0 annual deductible. In addition, many Medicare Advantage plans, which provide more comprehensive health coverage, are available to beneficiaries.
      Certain limited income beneficiaries who qualify for financial assistance can enroll in a Part D plan until the end of 2006 without incurring a financial penalty. Beneficiaries who qualify for financial assistance will get help paying premiums, deductibles and drug co-payments, potentially saving even more.
      Important Open Enrollment Shopping Tips:

  • Run a plan comparison report now on or contact a Montana SHIP volunteer at 1-800-551-3191 for assistance. Determine what plans cover your prescription drugs and when you may reach the coverage gap.
  • During the six-week open enrollment period, determine whether your current plan or another one would best meet your prescription drug needs and budget in 2007.
  • Make any plan changes by early December to avoid enrollment problems when the new year begins.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration (SAA) at 1-800-772-1213 with financial assistance questions.
      Montana Medicare beneficiaries satisfied with their current prescription drug plans can simply forgo the process to maintain their coverage. Those who are not enrolled or wish to change to another Part D plan must complete the open enrollment by December 31 or they may not have Medicare prescription drug coverage in 2007.
      There are more plan choices this year. In all, 53 prescription drug plans are available in Montana as compared to 41 offered for 2006. Last year, participants had six months to enroll in the program instead of six weeks.