Medicare deadline looms |

Medicare deadline looms

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Monday is the deadline to sign up for the Medicare prescription drug plan.

Monday’s deadline for seniors to sign up for the federal Medicare prescription drug plan may come and go without fanfare.

That is according to some Tahoe seniors who have either opted out of the plan or will still be debating it when the next enrollment period begins Jan. 1.

But premium rates could be higher than the standard $300 a year at that time – leaving many seniors pondering whether to wait to sign up for Medicare Part D.

Tahoe’s seniors represent a mixed bag of opinions.

Ann Buffo, who was painting Wednesday in the Arts and Crafts Room of the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center, has her doubts the massive plan for the federal government’s health insurance program for seniors will work.

Although she’s turning 80 this year, she’s passing on enrollment because she’s not taking prescription medication.

Florence McIntosh signed up for the plan. She pays a $5 out-of-pocket fee for each prescription rather than the $75 per prescription she has shelled out for her two blood-pressure medications.

“I’m going to save some money,” she said.

Carol Dickinson commends any senior, and she is one, who has the tenacity and knowledge to wade through the information.

“I feel sorry for people in their 80s who don’t have a clue,” she said.

She has found no need to get into the complex government plan. Her retired husband’s health care plan costs $12 a quarter for generic drugs, $50 for non-generic.

The trend in pharmaceuticals involves a push in generic drugs.

“It’s financially impossible to use brand name drugs unless you get prior utilization review,” Tahoe Valley pharmacist Doug Mundy said.

Mundy said he’s been fielding some questions about the Medicare drug plan deadline approaching. But overall, he’s discovered most of his customers are automatically enrolled by being in Medicare plan A and B along with Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance program for the poor.

About 37 million Medicare beneficiaries now have prescription drug coverage, The Associated Press reported. That leaves about 6 million seniors who still have not enrolled.

More than 44,000 applications had been sent out from the Reno Social Security office, where phone calls were unreturned.

Mundy said he’s not surprised by a lack of participation among some seniors.

“A lot of people don’t feel it benefits them. Either they feel they’re in good health or they have their own drug benefit in their retirement plan,” he said.

The pharmacist characterized the coverage of the federal plan as “better than it could have been but worse than perfection.”

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