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Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications
518.465.7511

July 30, 2004

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services seeks public comment on proposed Medicare prescription card regulations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking for public comments on proposed regulations regarding Medicare benefits and the Medicare prescription drug card.

The proposals, which are now open for public comment, are designed to help implement the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act that created a new voluntary prescription drug program in Medicare, a release from HHS said.

The proposed regulations would allow Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in a prescription drug plan or Medicare health plan in which 75 percent of the premium cost will be covered by Medicare, according to HHS.

Under the proposed regulations, 95 percent of drug costs for limited-means seniors would be covered, and Medicare would provide new prescription drug protections for retirees who receive drug coverage through their employers or unions.

If adopted, enrollment in the new Medicare benefit plans would be voluntary and seniors may choose to keep their existing coverage, HHS said. The proposed regulations would also give beneficiaries access to supplemental coverage from states, employers, unions and charitable organizations. “They can use these and other sources of their existing coverage to add to the Medicare coverage for more comprehensive assistance,” the release added.

The department also announced new rules proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Those proposals include creating regional preferred-provider organizations available to all Medicare beneficiaries and providing beneficiaries with access to “coordinated-care health plans that provide additional benefits and significantly lower out-of-pocket costs,” the release said.

“Though over 60 million Americans in all 50 states including rural areas get their health insurance coverage through PPOs today, they have generally not been available to Medicare beneficiaries,” the release said. “The proposed rules would also implement new, less costly options for Medigap coverage.”

To comment on the proposed rule, or for more information on the proposals, or the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, visit www.cms.hhs.gov/medicarereform/.