Gloucester County Times

Seniors Get Last Benefit Chance

Gloucester County Times — Wednesday, May 10, 2006

By Allegra Tiver

WASHINGTON TWP. — More than 7,000 Gloucester County seniors who still haven't singled out a Medicare D plan will have an opportunity to enroll in the program at the Washington Township Senior Center in Turnersville May 15.

Two volunteers from the State Health Insurance Program are scheduled to be present at the event – coordinated by the Medicare RX Access Network in conjunction with Assemblyman Paul Moriarty's office – to assist seniors in selecting a plan that matches their prescription drug needs.

"There are some people who are just choosing not to get involved," said Lucy Montgomery, director for the network. "They've been to the events and know what programs are best for them, but for whatever reason are not pulling the trigger."

Montgomery speculated some seniors may not have enrolled because they are under the impression that if they don't take a lot of prescription drugs, they don't need to. "I would still encourage these seniors to sign up," Montgomery said, "because you never know what could happen in the future."

Wireless Internet service will be available Monday to log seniors onto a Web site that recommends plans based on zip code, medications, dosage and preferred pharmacy.

Montgomery said she expected to see a swarm of seniors in these last two weeks of open enrollment, but has instead observed the number of enrollees dropping off significantly. Between 35 and 50 seniors have been attending each session in the past few weeks, compared to between 100 and 170 a few months ago.

As part of a campaign to extend the May 15 deadline, the New Jersey Citizen Action released an advisory Tuesday saying the Medicare D plan has "failed to provide drug coverage to most of the low-income New Jersey seniors eligible for subsidies and, on average, left the poorest of the poor worse off."

But Montgomery said all seniors on Medicaid and Medicare have been enrolled, as well as a majority of those on Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled, which assists low-income seniors with prescription drug costs.

The advisory also called the prescription drug law "costly, confusing and corrupt because ... it was written to benefit drug and insurance companies more than seniors."

Citizen Action and Americans United are asking the administration to "use its free market muscle to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, and allow seniors the choice of obtaining their prescription drug plan directly from Medicare instead of a private insurance company."

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