Medicare Prescription Drug Card:

What you should know about

Medicare prescription drug cards

Q: When can I get a Medicare prescription drug card?

A: A Medicare-approved vendor should begin selling the cards in May 2004.  You must be entitled to or enrolled in Medicare Part A or Part B.  Medicaid recipients are not eligible for a Medicare prescription drug card.

Q: How much will my card cost?

A: By law, no more than $30/year.

Q: Can I purchase more than one discount drug card?

A: No.  You should buy only one approved Medicare prescription drug card.  When you purchase a Medicare prescription drug card, you must maintain that card for the rest of the calendar year, unless you qualify for a special circumstance allowing you to choose another card vendor such as your original vendor goes out of business.  You may continue to use non-Medicare approved cards, though.

Q: Will my Medicare prescription drug discount card make my other drug cards useless?

A: No.  You may continue to use non-Medicare approved cards, such as those offered by drug manufacturers.  Be sure to check to see which card produces the best discount for you.

Q: Can I get a Medicare prescription drug card if I have a Medigap plan that covers drugs? 

A: Yes. Again, compare and use the option that gives you the best discounts.

Q: What Insurance could keep me from getting a free drug discount card?

A: Military Insurance (TRICARE for Life), Federal employees' health benefits, and some other employee and retirement plans.

Q: Where will I be able to use the drug card?

A: Medicare law specifies that each approved drug card must have pharmacy access within certain distances.  For example, if you live in an urban area, you should be able to use your card at a pharmacy that s within two miles; five miles for suburban and 15 miles for rural areas.

Q: How can I benefit from using the Medicare prescription drug card?

A: You should be able to get discounts on prescription drugs at a pharmacy.

Q: How much can a drug discount card save me?

A: You can save 10% to 17% on brand name drugs and 30% to 60% for generic drugs.

Some people with little income may get much greater savings from some drug companies.

Q: How can I find which Medicare prescription drug card offers me the best discounts?

A: Go to Medicare s web site at or call toll-free 1800-633-4227.    It is wise to check to make sure the pharmaceuticals you use regularly would be covered by the prescription drug card you choose.  Also, federal law prohibits some items from being eligible for discounts with the card, such as products used for cosmetic purposes or to grow hair.

Q: Must a prescription discount card vendor make public its discounts on drugs?

A: Yes.  All you need to do is ask to see the discounts.  Your vendor also should be able to provide you with a toll-free 800 telephone number to call.

Q: Will I be able to bring any issues up with a prescription drug discount vendor?

A: Yes.  By law, each Medicare-endorsed vendor must have a grievance process for members.  And be sure the vendor is endorsed by Medicare because fly-by-night companies may spring up to trick you.

Q: Is there more help available besides discounts?

A: Yes, for those Medicare beneficiaries with low incomes.  These beneficiaries are eligible for up to $600 in benefits and can get their initial $30 discount card enrollment fee paid for.  To qualify, you must earn less than $12,569/year ($16,862 for couples).  You may apply for such transitional assistance at any time.  Any endorsed card vendor should be able to help you to apply.

Q: How will a drug discount card affect my Food Stamps?

A: The food stamp office will not count any savings as income.  If you get the $600 credit,the food stamp office will not count that.  The food stamp office will keep giving you the medical deduction you have been getting.  It gives you a deduction as if you were still paying in full.

Q: What if I paid $30 to get a card and later it was determined I qualified for
transitional assistance?

A:  Your card vendor should quickly repay you your $30 enrollment fee.  The $600 in annual transitional assistance may also be used to pay for co-pays and deductibles on qualified drugs.

Q: How can my pharmacist help?

A: Your pharmacist should be able to answer questions about the new Medicare prescription drug card.  Your pharmacist also, by federal law, must tell you of any price difference between a covered discount card drug and the lowest price generic equivalent.

Q: Is this part of that Medicare Part D benefit for prescription drugs?

A: No.  The Medicare prescription drug discount cards will last only for 2004 and 2005 (you would face another $30 enrollment fee in 2005), then the program ends and will be replaced by the new Part D drug benefit, starting in January 2006.

Q: Do I have to enroll in a Medicare-approved drug discount card?

A: No, these discount cards are voluntary.  That means enrolling is your choice.  You decide whether it will save you money.  If you want to enroll, contact the company offering the card you choose.  If you can get a free card and $600 in credit toward drugs, get one.

Q: Is there only one Medicare-approved drug discount card I can get?

A: No.  A choice of more than one discount card is available.  Medicare can help you compare your options before you choose a card.  Private companies might also send you information about the Medicare-approved drug discount card they are offering.

You can only enroll in one Medicare-approved drug discount card each calendar year.

If you are a member of a Medicare managed care plan, contact your plan about
discount card options for members.

Q: How can I get help in comparing cards?

A: Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and ask about "drug savings".  TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

Q: How can I get more information on the drug cards?

A: Visit or call toll-free 1-800-633-4227

Sources: Federal Register, 11/15/03, p. 69840 and Susan Winckler, American Pharmacists Assn., Washington; 2004 UCG/DecisionHealth 1-877-602-3835

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