Tricare Officials Encourage Educated Decisions on Medicare Part D
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2005 The window for signing up for Medicare's new prescription drug plan opens today, but Tricare Management Activity officials encourage eligible beneficiaries to weigh the facts before deciding whether to sign on to the plan.
Coverage under the new prescription drug plan, called Medicare Part D, begins Jan. 1 and is open to anyone already enrolled in Medicare. The plan represents the first time Medicare has offered prescription drug coverage for its estimated 42 million beneficiaries. Tricare officials estimate that about 1.7 million of the 9.2 million Tricare beneficiaries are eligible to enroll in the new plan, but emphasize that it's not the most prudent choice for everyone.
In most cases, there's no added value for Tricare beneficiaries to buy the new Medicare prescription drug coverage, officials said. Tricare generally pays as much or more than a standard Medicare prescription plan, they said. Unlike many non-DoD Medicare beneficiaries, those under Tricare already have what officials call a "robust" pharmacy benefit. It charges no monthly premiums and requires minimal co-payments for drugs received through the TRICARE Mail Order Pharmacy and retail network. In addition, there's no cost for prescription drugs received at military treatment facilities, officials noted.
The one group of eligible Tricare beneficiaries who may benefit from the new Medicare Plan D are those with limited incomes and assets, officials said. This includes beneficiaries who qualify for Medicaid.
The new Medicare Part D drug plan options will vary by location, officials said, and beneficiaries living overseas aren't eligible.
The best way for Tricare-Medicare beneficiaries to determine if the new plan is best for them is to evaluate a variety of factors involved. These include monthly premiums, deductibles, co-payments and drug coverage of several prescription drug plans, including the Tricare pharmacy program, officials said.
To help eligible Tricare beneficiaries make this decision, Tricare and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have teamed up to provide Medicare Part D educational and enrollment information. This information is posted on the Tricare and Medicare Web sites or by calling (800) MEDICARE (633-4227).
The enrollment period for the prescription drug coverage plan continues through May 15. After that, eligible beneficiaries will have an annual window between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31 to sign up.