Medicare wants better access to drug discount cards

The Medicare program is taking steps to make it easier for low-income Americans to sign up for Medicare-approved prescription drug discount cards. Medicare will allow some states to sign up low-income seniors automatically and provide a standard application form, Dr. Mark McClellan, the administrator of the Medicare program, said Saturday. "We intend to make it as easy as possible for Medicare beneficiaries to get the information they need and to enroll in the drug card program," McClellan said. He announced the plan at a conference on aging in San Francisco. State officials and organizations for the elderly had argued that the two actions would significantly increase the number of seniors who would receive the $600-a-year subsidy for the poor. However, even with the changes, advocates for the elderly and administrators of state low-income drug plans said they doubt the government will achieve its goal of enrolling more than 4.5 million low-income seniors who are eligible for the subsidy. They are intended as a temporary measure until prescription drug insurance under Medicare begins in 2006. The Bush administration says Medicare clients who use the cards should save 10 percent to 25 percent off their prescription drug costs. Critics say the percentages will be much lower. Medicare will make the standard form available on its Medicare.gov Web site, eliminating the need for people who are going door-to-door trying to sign up seniors to carry more than two dozen different application forms. The government has approved 28 companies to issue Medicare-endorsed cards.
 
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