La Casa offers clarity on Medicare program

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

La Casa de Buena Salud healthcare officials are offering enrollment help for those who have not signed up for the new Medicare prescription drug program.

Debra Herman, pharmacist clinician and director of pharmacy services for La Casa de Buena Salud, said since the start of enrollment in the Medicare program Nov. 15, pharmacy technicians have enrolled approximately 3,000 people in the eastern New Mexico area.

“Our pharmacy techs have sat down with the patient and spent 30-45 minutes with them in some cases,” Herman said. “They’ve been finding out what meds they take and getting them enrolled.”

Alejandro Hernandez of Portales said he saves between 70 to 90 percent on his prescription drugs in program. Hernandez said on one prescription drug he spends $3 out of pocket for a $13 prescription drug.

“It’s helped me a lot,” Federico Silva of Portales said. “I have to take four different types of prescription drugs for things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It would be expensive for me to have to pay it without a prescription drug card.”

Herman said the 3,000 people they helped enroll in the Medicare program does not include the people who were on Medicaid and automatically enrolled in the drug program.

“We want to advise them on all of the options they have,” said Jeanette Chavez, director of marketing and public relations for La Casa de Buena Salud. “All we’re offering is an explanation of their needs with what they have.”

Herman said La Casa de Buena Salud technicians do not endorse one prescription drug program over another. She said some patients with low income may qualify for the patient assistance program to help pay for premiums.

“With some programs, patients don’t have to pay a $250 deductible,” Herman said. “There are companies with a $250 deductible, but the co-pays are lower, and in some cases the overall yearly costs. The goal is to try to keep the yearly costs down.”

The deadline to sign up for the 2006 drug program is May 15, according to the Medicare.gov Web site. After may 15, the premiums will go up at least 1 percent per month for every month subscribers wait to enroll.

The Medicare.gov Web site also provides information on prescription drug coverage.