local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 public meetings

 previous edition

 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info
 classifieds info
 internet info
 sun valley central
 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs
Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Other Views

Discount drug cards give seniors a choice

Guest opinion by Sen. MIKE CRAPO
A Republican, Mike Crapo represents Idaho in the U.S. Senate.

Sometimes all people hear about is what the government is doing to make life more complicated. I’m the first one to admit that many times good intentions become obscured by politics and competing interests.

However, there are times when noble intentions actually translate into effective laws that help people live fuller and more productive lives. One example is the Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card and Transitional Assistance Program enacted under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Beneficiaries and their families may find the following information helpful.

By the end of April, seniors and those with disabilities will be able to obtain discount drug cards that will provide immediate savings until the new prescription drug benefit is implemented in 2006. These cards will give Medicare beneficiaries discounts of 10 to 25 percent on prescription drugs. Medicare will also waive the enrollment fee and provide a $600 credit toward the purchase of prescription drugs in 2004 and up to the same amount in 2005, for individuals making less than $12,569 and married couples making less than $16,862 who lack drug coverage. Additionally, several drug manufacturers plan to provide low-income beneficiaries medication at nominal cost once the credit is exhausted.

This is great news for those who face the high cost of prescription drugs, especially for chronic illnesses. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to make the application process as straightforward and accessible as possible to all eligible Americans.

  • Applicants can use the Internet and apply at www.medicare.gov, or call toll free 1-800-MEDICARE;

  • HHS will issue a free "Guide to Choosing a Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card" explaining eligibility and enrollment information and fees;

  • Starting April 29, the Web site and phone number listed above will also provide comparison information about drug prices and other helpful hints in order to make the process of selecting the appropriate card easier;

  • For approved applications, benefits will begin as early as the first day of the next month;

  • The Social Security Administration will mail a separate letter to beneficiaries with lower incomes who may be eligible for the $600 credit.

Rural beneficiaries will be happy to know that approved discount drug cards must offer discounts at retail pharmacies located near most enrollees’ homes. Discount programs are also encouraged to utilize mail-order services.

Syringes and medical supplies for insulin injections are eligible to be discounted, and some cards may offer discounts on over-the-counter drugs. Card sponsors must comply with HIPAA privacy regulations, and Medicare will operate a grievance and complaint tracking system to better protect consumers.

Medicare is giving a special endorsement to selected card sponsors to provide transitional assistance to residents of long-term care facilities and skilled nursing facilities as well as American Indians and Alaska Natives who use Indian Health Service, Indian Tribe, and Tribal Organization pharmacies.

Initial estimates placed the savings to beneficiaries at 10 to 15 percent off their overall drug expenditures, and up to 25 percent or more off the retail price of some individual drugs. A recently released Harvard study estimates average savings of 14 percent for brand-name drugs and 41 percent for generic drugs.

A word to families of seniors: The most efficient way to enroll in this program and to research card cost and benefit comparisons is on the Internet. Demographically, many beneficiaries either do not have access to the Internet, or are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with computers. With this in mind, family members may want to familiarize themselves with program information in order to help their relative (or friend) obtain the card that best suits their individual needs.

This program will have a significant impact on seniors and others who qualify for this benefit, especially those who live on low and fixed incomes. This program will meet their prescription drug needs, and contribute toward the larger goal of a healthier society.


City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.