Until last month, 68 year-old Famie Mays had been struggling to afford prescription drugs during her retirement. The Dallas, Texas, retiree didn’t realize that she could save up to 75 percent of her costs with the Medicare prescription drug program. Over the next two months, AARP will be reaching many more like Famie in an all-out effort to help those who need it the most.
With fewer than 60 days left to enroll before the May 15th deadline for the new Medicare prescription drug program, AARP is launching an expansive advertising campaign to help educate Americans about the benefits of the program and how to enroll, especially for those with limited incomes.
Over the past year, AARP has been providing materials, publications and information to help people learn about the new Medicare drug program. And now the nation’s largest representative of Medicare beneficiaries is bolstering its education campaign by running print advertisements in community, senior and minority papers, as well as radio public service announcements throughout the country.
"General enrollment is strong, but early operational problems made the system unworkable for many, especially low-income, dual-eligible beneficiaries. Those issues are being resolved, but negative publicity may have discouraged some from taking advantage of this important benefit," AARP CEO Bill Novelli said.
"This program is especially helpful to beneficiaries with high drug costs or who have limited incomes." Novelli explained. "More can be done to help those who will benefit the most. AARP is making sure that the people who will save from these plans get the information and help they need."
AARP Illinois State Director Ralph Yaniz explains, "Many limited-income people don't know enough about the extra help available to pay for their drugs. We are advertising in community papers and on rural and urban radio to help thousands learn more."
All across the country, AARP state offices are supporting the efforts of local agencies and community organizations that are providing one-on-one counseling.
Ernest LaPlante, a 67-year old from Cumberland, Rhode Island, recently enrolled in a Medicare drug plan. This grandfather of six is now saving about $600 a year with his Medicare plan. AARP and Ernest are telling his story to others.
"With thousands of stories like Ernest’s and Famie’s, AARP is helping people understand the program and encouraging them to enroll in whatever plan gives them the best access to the drugs they need," said AARP CEO Bill Novelli.
In the meantime, AARP is working with Medicare, the Administration and Congress to improve the Medicare prescription drug program, urging them to streamline the application process and remove the asset test which has proven to be the biggest impediment to low-income enrollment.
AARP is also working hard to lower the cost of prescription drugs. It supports a number of federal and state legislative initiatives. Last week AARP supported an amendment passed by the US Senate that could enable the government to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of the Medicare program.
"Lowering drug costs will not only help consumers, but it will make this benefit much more affordable for Medicare over time," said Novelli.
AARP continues to push for other ways to reduce the price of prescription drugs, including safe and legal importation of prescription drugs and closing loopholes that keep generic drugs from the market.
"The Medicare drug benefit is an important step in lowering costs," Novelli said. "No one should be discouraged from enrolling and taking advantage of savings. Americans need access to affordable prescription drugs and Part D plans can help," he stated.