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News from WOSU 820 AM
(Part 2 of 3)
Linda Blackburn: I have a few 90-year-olds in my AARP chapter. They really don’t understand. (laughing)
Reporter Christina Morgan: Linda Blackburn is president of the Licking County AARP. She’s considerably younger than 90 years old, but says she too is at a loss to answer questions members are asking. Actually, Medicare D has prompted so many questions from seniors and others that a new program was started just to explain the prescription drug plan.
Elizabeth Ginter: There’s about 44 different programs, depends on the county you live in.
Morgan: Elizabeth Ginter is Columbus Marketing Manager for the “My Medicare Matters” campaign. You might have seen their vans on the road, carrying laptops loaded with drug coverage information and newly minted Medicare Plan D counselors to locations around central Ohio. They help seniors try to figure out the federal drug plan. And they try to help seniors decide if one of the 44 or so different coverage options offered by private insurers under Plan D meets their needs.
Morgan: Rebecca Kullangelo of Heath was waiting for assistance at the Licking County Office on Aging office in Newark
Rebecca Kullangelo: They sent me a Medicare card but they sent no book, so I don’t know exactly what it covers. (laughing)
Morgan: Medicare Plan D was likely to stir at least some confusion simply because of the potential number of people affected. More than 40 million Americans receive Medicare benefits, thought certainly not all are expected to take part in the voluntary Plan D program. Some seniors already have prescription drug coverage through a retirement plan or other source.
Morgan: About 40 percent of Columbus-area Dr. Gina Love-Walker’s patients are over the age of 65. Prior to Plan D, Dr. Love-Walker said one of her biggest challenges was figuring out how her older patients would pay for the drugs she prescribed.
Dr. Gina Love-Walker: That is a very sticky point as far as how to manipulate getting the patients the medicines that they need without wiping out their monthly income.
Morgan: Two months into the Medicare prescription drug plan, Dr. Love-Walker says the verdict is still out. For some of her patients, she says, Plan D helps. For others, it does not.
Morgan: To help patients save money on prescriptions, many doctors offer medication samples. Eastland Manor residents Marcella Flowers, Lenora Twitty and Eunice Simpson are among the older patients who welcome the offer.
Marcella Flowers: My doctor also gives me free samples because a lot of those medications, she knows they’re expensive and she knows, you know, she knows me. So if she has them, she’ll give them to me. And I appreciate that. Plus I see other patients coming out with them. I call them little goody bags with little freebies, and I think that’s nice.
Leonora Twitty: Yes, he even though I’m on Medicaid, he gives me free samples all the time.
Eunice Simpson: He does. It does help. It helps.
Morgan: And while free samples might help in the short term, only time will tell if Medicare Plan D is a long-term solution to the problem of how older Americans will pay the rapidly rising cost of prescription medications. The federal government rolled out its sweeping effort to answer that question just as the first wave of baby boomers turned 60 years old.