As millions debate our nation’s health care system and the rising costs of care, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services offered a small dose of good news Monday, depending on how you look at it.
The majority of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in drug plans will not see significant increases in their premiums in 2010. But there is an increase.
CMS estimates that the average monthly premium for standard Part D coverage will be $30, an increase of $2, or 7 percent, over this year.
That’s less than the 12 percent increase between 2008 and 2009, when the average premium rose from $25 to $28.
There are 11,300 Douglas County residents eligible for Medicare Part D, a federal program that subsidizes the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, and about 6,890 are enrolled in a plan.
“Although most Part D plans should have relatively stable premiums, all beneficiaries should compare their current coverage with the plans that will be offered in 2010 when information becomes available in October,” said Jonathan Blum, acting director of CMS’ Center for Health Plan Choices, in a news release.
In particular, some beneficiaries who receive the low-income subsidy to pay for their premiums will need to move to a new plan to ensure that they can remain in a zero-premium plan in 2010.
Nearly 10 million people receive drug coverage under the low-income subsidy benefit. CMS expects that about 800,000 of those beneficiaries will need to move to a new plan or be automatically reassigned by CMS.
The agency is currently notifying all individuals who are in this situation.
In Douglas County, there are about 1,550 people that receive the low-income subsidy benefit. According to CMS, another 305 may be eligible but are not enrolled.
The time to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan or to switch plans is Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. Anyone who does not have any drug coverage and is not enrolled in a Medicare prescription plan might want to consider it, if eligible. That’s because a penalty will be charged for joining later.
During the enrollment period, volunteers with the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas program will be available at the Lawrence Senior Center to help answer questions and enroll seniors in a plan.
Janet Ikenberry, community services manager for Douglas County Senior Services, advises beneficiaries to be on the lookout for information regarding their drug plans. Companies are required to notify their clients of any changes by the end of October.
“It gets kind of confusing for people,” she said. “For someone who doesn’t have a grasp on it, it is awful for them.”