A national campaign to raise awareness about Medicare’s federal prescription drug coverage has been launched by “Medicare Today.” This program is designed to provide greater access to prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, and its upcoming annual open enrollment period for seniors. The campaign will also release the results of a new survey of American seniors. The Medicare prescription drug annual enrollment period runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. The open enrollment period is an opportunity for seniors to change the program under which they are currently enrolled, and an opportunity for those not enrolled in a plan to enroll. Prior to passage of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which created the Medicare prescription drug benefit, millions of Medicare beneficiaries lacked coverage for their prescriptions. Today, 39 million of the 44 million Medicare beneficiaries have prescription drug coverage, and as of January 2008, over 25 million beneficiaries got their prescription coverage specifically through Medicare Part D. Unfortunately, millions of seniors still have not taken advantage of this benefit. Forty-eight prescription plans and 15 Medicare plans will be available to those who qualify in Putnam County in 2009. Insurance companies offer Medicare prescription drug plans and other private companies approved by Medicare. They add coverage to the original Medicare plan, some Medicare cost plans, some Medicare private fee-for-service plans and Medicare medical savings account plans. With a Medicare prescription drug plan people generally pays less for prescriptions. They receive a plan member card when they enroll. Seniors then use the card to fill prescriptions and will pay a co-payment, co-insurance or deductible. Those with limited income and resources may get extra help to pay for drug plan costs. Medicare health plans (like HMOs and PPOs) often cover prescription drugs. Medicare health plans include both Medicare Advantage plans and other Medicare health plans. Medicare Advantage plans (like HMOs and PPOs) that include prescription drug coverage as part of the plan are health plan options that are approved by Medicare but run by private companies. They are part of the Medicare program. With Medicare Advantage plans people generally get all Medicare-covered health care through that plan. They may get extra benefits, such as coverage for vision, hearing, dental and health and wellness programs. Individuals usually will have to pay some other costs (such as co-payments or co-insurance) for services. Out-of-pocket costs in these plans are generally lower than in the original Medicare plan, but vary by the services used. They may have to see doctors that belong to the plan or go to certain hospitals to get covered services and they don’t need to buy a Medigap policy. Medicare Advantage plans include HMOs, PPOs, private fee-for-service (PFFS) plans, Medicare medical savings account (MSA) plans and Medicare special needs plans (SNP). There are also other Medicare Health Plans that include prescription drug coverage, as parts of the plan, but that aren’t part of Medicare Advantage. These are still part of the Medicare program. With these plans, a person generally gets all Medicare-covered health care through that plan. For information go to www.medicare.gov and look under Medicare plans and prescription plans. You can also call 800-633-4227 24 hours a day, seven days a week for information or help. Most pharmacists will also discuss plans and their advantages and disadvantages with customers.