MEDICARE RX

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Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is urging Mayor Bloomberg to create an emergency response team to help eligible New Yorkers navigate the transition to Medicare Part D. The switch, instituted by Congress, requires beneficiaries to choose a new prescription drug plan from an array of plans offered by private health insurance companies. But clients eligible for Medicaid, including the poor, elderly and/or disabled, didn’t get to choose. They were “randomly enrolled” in Medicare Part D on January 1 when the plan took effect, and many now have plans that don’t cover their prescriptions. Stringer’s initiative would help them switch to more appropriate plans by streamlining 311 so that it offers immediate counseling and more complete advice. “The [existing 311] system for counseling people through this change does not work for the most vulnerable members of the population,” Stringer said. If Medicare Part D clients do not enroll and decide on their plans by May 15, their premiums will begin to incur a penalty of 1 percent for every month that the person is not enrolled. (A. Schmidt) [02/21/06]