Prescription Drug Help Available for Mental Health Consumers

Many people with mental illness are among the 700,000 Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries who need to consider their options now that the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit is available. These individuals, and family members and friends who care for them, should take note of some key points between now and May 15, 2006, when the first period of Medicare Part D open enrollment ends.

It is estimated that up to 40% of people with serious mental illness in the state are eligible for both Medicare and Medical Assistance. Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, Medicare, rather than Medical Assistance, began paying for all of their prescription drugs except benzodiazepines and/or barbiturates. MA will continue to pay for those drugs because they are not covered by Part D.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid were expected to select plans for dual beneficiaries by Jan. 1, 2006, if the beneficiaries had not enrolled in a plan on their own. Because the plan chosen for them may not be the best for these individuals, they are encouraged to compare plans and consider their best option.

The Minnesota Prescription Drug Program ended Dec. 31, 2005. Participants in that program have no prescription drug coverage as of Jan. 1, 2006, unless they enrolled in a Part D plan. While efforts have been made to personally notify each of these participants, those individuals and people who care about them are encouraged to be proactive about making the Part D choice that is best for them.

Help is available. Beneficiaries, county case managers, family and friends can receive impartial assistance from the state Linkage Line at 1-800-333-2433. This service is available from 8 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday and from 8 am to noon on Saturday. Help also is available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or referring to www.medicare.gov.

Before calling, gather the following information for reference: The individual’s Medicare card; a list of the prescription medications the individual is taking, including names and dosages; and the name and address of a preferred pharmacy.

The National Mental Health Association also offers a free Medicare Rx Coverage Workbook for Mental Health Consumers, available on its Web site at www.nmha.org/medicare or by calling 1-800-969-NMHA