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20-08-2012 | Article

Pharmacies to spread the word about Medicare benefits


Press statement

medwireNews: US consumers can now go to the corner drugstore for prescriptions, candy bars, and free information about Medicare benefits.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is partnering with major pharmacy chains to provide their customers with information about Medicare benefits newly available to them under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

"Our pharmacy partners are helping their customers make informed health care decisions," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press statement. "These partnerships will help people with Medicare learn more about new preventive services such as mammograms, and the new Annual Wellness visit that are available at no charge for everyone with Medicare."

The pharmacy chains include CVS Caremark, Walgreens, Thrifty White, Walmart, and Sam's Club. The information will include educational materials on prevention and prescription drug savings for those Medicare beneficiaries who are trapped in the notorious "donut hole," a Medicare part D coverage gap under which beneficiaries are responsible for 100% of prescription costs between the initial coverage limit (currently $ 2930) and the upper limit (currently $ 4700).

As of 2012, Medicare Part D enrollees will receive a 50% discount on the cost of brand name drugs while they pass through the hole. The maximum co-pay for generic drugs for seniors in the coverage gap is 86%. Under the ACA, the donut hole will shrink year-by-year, until it disappears entirely in 2020.

The educational efforts touted by the HHS include distributing brochures, register-receipt messages, and online materials free of charge to Medicare beneficiaries at more than 7300 CVS Caremark locations, 85 Thrifty White locations in the Midwest, and 8000 Walgreens pharmacies. Walgreens will also distribute the information through its "Way to Health Tour," a program providing free health screening in underserved communities, conducted in association with AARP (the former American Association of Retired Persons).

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews Reporter