U.S. Government announces 2009 Medicare drug plan premiums
Seniors enrolled in Medicare’s drug benefit will pay average monthly premiums of $28 next year, government officials announced today.
That’s about $3 higher than the 2008 average premium, or a 12 percent increase.
“Average plan bids have increased at roughly the same rate as drug costs,” said Paul Spitalnic, an official with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Premiums are set by the private plans that offer drug benefits under Medicare and will vary depending on the plan and location.
The average increase affects nearly 25 million Medicare beneficiaries — 7.6 million in Medicare Advantage plans with comprehensive coverage and 17.4 million plans that cover only drugs.
While officials said the premium increase was well below projections, advocates noted that it exceeds the annual cost of living increase for Social Security, which remains under 3 percent.
The problem is “the government is failing to do anything about the runaway prices that Americans pay for drugs” because it won’t negotiate price discounts directly with drug companies, said Robert Hayes of the Medicare Rights Center.
The annual enrollment period for Medicare Part D begins Nov. 15 and extends through the end of the year. This is the only time of year that seniors can elect to change their plans.
For 2009, the annual deductible for Part D plans (the amount consumers pay before coverage kicks in) will be $295. Once you pay the deductible, your Medicare Part D plan will pay 75 percent of your drug costs up to $2,700.
Then, you enter the so-called “donut hole,” and you’re responsible for 100 percent of your drug costs up to $6,153.75. After that, the government will pay 100 percent of your drug bills.
In other words, you could end up paying $4,350 in 2009 out-of-pocket for drug expenses before Medicare will take over paying for all your drugs.
In Illinois, seniors with low incomes will want to make sure they consider applying for assistance that can help cover these extra expenses. For more information about Illinois Cares Rx, one of these programs, click here. To obtain this assistance, you have to work with a Medicare drug plan that partners with Illinois Cares Rx.
If you’re very low income, you probably qualify for a program known as Extra Help. For more information about Extra Help, click here. To qualify, you’ll have to apply and be approved by the Social Security Administration.
For help figuring out how Medicare Part D works, counselors are available at the organizations listed below.
Illinois Department of Aging Senior Help Line 1-800-252-8966
Illinois Senior Health Insurance Program 1-800-548-9034
AgeOptions, suburban Cook County 1-800-699-9043
Chicago Department of Senior Services 1-312-744-4016