Send It In
Once you've checked out discounts, pharmacy locations, low-income eligibility, and existing private drug coverage, you'll be ready to mail in your application. Private sponsors will be responsible for notifying Medicare when they sign you up in order to enforce the one-card-per-beneficiary rule.
Experts warn to make your final decision and then send in a single enrollment application. If you send in more, Medicare will lock you in to the first one that is processed. "Only apply to one. This is not like applying to college," Ginzler says.
After that, many seniors may have to 'go with the flow' on their drug discounts. Remember that if your card winds up being less beneficial than you hoped, you can apply for a new 2005 card starting in November 2004. The program ends altogether in 2006, when the Medicare prescription drug benefit kicks in.
"I don't think that there are any guarantees. We're all learning," Wagner says.
AARP plans to offer a drug comparison worksheet to help seniors itemize the drugs they use and how much they pay. The worksheet will be available at www.aarp.org at the end of April.
Consumers Union and the California Health Care Foundation will offer a report in mid April with information about prescription drug cards nationwide. It can be found at www.calmedicareoptions.org.
Published March 25, 2004.