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Government News
HHS Approves 73 Sponsors For Discount Card Program
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 10 page 6-6

To date Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has approved 73 private sponsors for the new Medicare discount card program—40 national cards will be available to all eligible beneficiaries, and 33 regional cards will be available. The program is scheduled to take effect in June.

The new card program, established under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, is a temporary program designed to provide savings on prescription drugs to beneficiaries until the prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006.

All Medicare beneficiaries, except those who already receive outpatient drugs through Medicaid, can now enroll in the program, and the cards’ savings will take effect June 1. Card providers may charge an annual enrollment fee of up to $30, but there is no enrollment fee for low-income people who qualify for the $600 credit.

Medicare-approved cards will be marketed to seniors by the organizations offering the cards. Seniors will sign up for the cards directly with the organization offering the card they choose, according to HHS.

The 73 approved sponsors must offer discounts on prescription drugs for all Medicare enrollees, with at least some of these savings coming from manufacturer rebates. Card sponsors also must publish prices for the prescription drugs their cards will cover, provide access to an extensive retail pharmacy network, operate call centers, and have a process to respond to beneficiary concerns.

Some card sponsors will offer more than one card program to seniors and people with disabilities. In addition, 43 sponsors, representing 84 Medicare Advantage health plans, will offer cards to the beneficiaries enrolled in their health plans.

Customer service representatives at (800) MEDICARE will be able to answer questions about the program, help callers compare drug cards on price and network pharmacies, and refer callers to other appropriate resources. They will also mail the results of the comparison to seniors, according to HHS.

Information on the Medicare drug discount card program is posted online at www.medicare.gov/AssistancePrograms/home.asp?version=default&browser=IE%7C6%. Beneficiaries can compare prices of drugs offered by the sponsors online or by phone at (800) MEDICARE.

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