News...
October 16, 2006

South Dakotans May Not Need to Change Plans
during the Medicare Enrollment Period

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakotans may not need to take action during the upcoming Medicare Open Enrollment period beginning November 15 because nearly all beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans will be able to remain in the same plan in which they enrolled for 2006, since almost all Part D sponsors are either continuing their current plans in 2007 or streamlining their 2006 plans.

“For those Medicare beneficiaries who want to make a change in their current drug plan, you can certainly do so,” said Department of Social Services’ Secretary Deb Bowman. “You will find more plans with coverage in the gap, more drugs covered, and more help from Medicare in choosing the plan that is best for you. However, if you are satisfied with your coverage, you do not have to do anything during the Open Enrollment period.”

South Dakotans will be able to choose from 26 plans offering enhanced benefits or services, such as coverage in the gap and little or no deductible. This represents an increase of nine more choices of enhanced plans than in 2006. There are 32 plans with zero deductibles, some of which also offer other enhanced benefits. The lowest premium in South Dakota is $10.60, and four plans have a premium below $20 a month. With these options, 49 percent of beneficiaries in South Dakota have access to coverage with a lower premium than they are paying in 2006. There are also options covering generics and preferred brand name drugs through the coverage gap for as low as $47.50, and generally for under $50.

Beneficiaries with limited incomes who qualify for the extra help will have a range of options available for comprehensive coverage. Beneficiaries who qualify for the full Medicare subsidy will pay no premiums or deductibles in these plans. In South Dakota, 95 percent of low-income beneficiaries will not need to change plans to continue to receive this coverage for a zero premium.

In addition to prescription drug plans, seniors and those with disabilities in South Dakota will have access to the first Medical Savings Account plans ever available in Medicare. These plans provide Medicare beneficiaries with more control over their healthcare and the costs while providing them with important coverage against extreme healthcare costs.

There are many sources available to help make decisions related to Medicare:

  • A notice of any coverage changes from individual drug plans, coming at the end of October;
  • Enhanced Medicare Drug Plan Finder, http://www.medicare.gov/pdphome.asp.
  • 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227), available 24/7;
  • Medicare & You 2007 handbook, explains Medicare coverage, beneficiaries will receive this month;
  • The Senior Health Information and Insurance Education (SHIINE) organization, 1-800-536-8197, and other SD Medicare partners will provide personalized assistance throughout the fall;
  • Eight new national organizations offer drug plans to beneficiaries, in addition to the nine national plans available in 2006. Find the national plans at: www.medicare.gov/medicarereform/local-plans-2007.asp;
  • Locate the nearest Department of Social Services in your area at http://dss.sd.gov/offices/index.asp.