The Access to Benefits Coalition has launched a nationwide campaign to guarantee that 5.5 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries receive drug discount cards, with a bonus of $1200 in free medicine over the next 19 months. The cards went into effect June 1, 2004, and will be used until January 1, 2006, when Medicare will cover outpatient medication costs.
The coalition, comprising 68 organizations, believes that the cards will provide a savings for low-income Medicare recipients. Individuals with annual incomes of $12,569 or less and couples with incomes of $16,862 or less will be eligible for a credit of $600 a year on their cards.
The steering committee for the Access to Benefits Coalition includes representatives from AARP, the Alzheimer's Association, Easter Seals, and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health. "The best part of the new law is what it can do for low-income people. We intend to go out and get them enrolled. It's a daunting task," said Stephen R. McConnell, senior vice president of the Alzheimer's Association, as reported in the New York Times, May 24, 2004.
He noted that at least 10% of older Medicare beneficiaries have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Also, many have other chronic conditions, and their cost of medication is estimated to be 80% higher than the average for all beneficiaries.