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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 4, 2005

Center On Aging Web Site Offers Medicare Prescription Drug Help

The University of Iowa Center on Aging has added a new link to its Web site (www.centeronaging.uiowa.edu) to provide information to Iowans about the forthcoming Medicare prescription drug program.

Coverage through Medicare's prescription drug program will begin Jan. 1, 2006. In Iowa, people with Medicare will be able to choose from more than 15 different Medicare-approved drug plans sponsored by various private insurers. Premiums will range from about $20 to $35 per month, and Medicare recipients also will pay some of the cost of their prescriptions. How much an individual pays, the drugs that are covered and which pharmacy to use will depend on the plan chosen.

Information about the various drug plans will be released in October, and people with Medicare will be able to enroll in a plan beginning Nov. 15. For many Iowans, however, choosing a plan could become a challenging, if not confusing, process.

"We expect a lot of Iowans with Medicare - as well as their families, health care providers and others - to have a lot of questions regarding what is the best Medicare prescription drug plan for them," said Robert Wallace, M.D., director of the UI Center on Aging. "Our goal is to help people find objective information so they can make well-informed decisions."

People with Medicare will have until May 15, 2006 to enroll in a prescription drug plan. For those people with no prescription drug coverage or whose current drug plan covers less than Medicare's, failure to enroll in a Medicare plan by May 15 could result in higher premiums should they choose to enroll later.

The UI Center on Aging Web site now includes general information about the Medicare program, as well as frequently asked questions and links for people with Medicare, UI retirees and family caregivers. The site also includes information for physicians, pharmacists, long-term care facility staff and social workers. Information also is available for individuals who may qualify for federal financial assistance to help pay for their drug plan's monthly premiums and other costs.

The site also contains links to the Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), a free, confidential and objective service of the state of Iowa (www.shiip.state.ia.us or toll free 800-351-4664). Local SHIIP counselors can provide one-on-one help to explain the Medicare program and compare plan options.

The UI Center on Aging does not endorse a specific Medicare prescription drug plan nor offer counseling to individuals to help them select a plan, noted Mike Klug, a program consultant with the center.

"Every person with Medicare coverage is eligible to participate in the prescription drug program, but each person needs to make a decision based on their situation," Klug said. "People who have drug coverage through a former employer or union, for example, may be better off staying with their current retiree drug plan if the coverage is as good as Medicare's. There are a lot of factors to consider, so it's important that each individual or family know what's available with this new program."

The UI Center on Aging fosters and supports interdisciplinary research, education and service throughout the campus and state to improve understanding of the aging process and the health and well-being of older people. For more information, visit www.centeronaging.uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5143 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Steve Maravetz, 319-335-8033, steven-maravetz@uiowa.edu