Last Thursday and Friday a large RV with Humana painted on the side was parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot right in front of the store. Under a tent set up alongside the RV, two representatives from Humana answered questions about the new prescription drug plan coming from Medicare.

“The number one question about Medicare, Part D,” said Humana sales representative Mary Ellen Levine, “comes from confusion about who is eligible. Many think the prescription drug program is available only for people with limited incomes. It’s not. Anyone enrolled in Part B of

Medicare and who is eligible for Part A qualifies for Medicare, Part D, the prescription drug program.”

Other questions commonly asked included:

 If I’m not taking prescription drugs now, should I sign up after

November 15?

Answer: The problem is that if you don’t sign up by May 15, 2006, you will have to pay a penalty in the form of an additional premium every month.

 What if the drugs I need are not on approved list?

Answer: Medicare’s Prescription Drug Program (PDP) will be administered solely through the private sector. Companies like Humana will then offer different levels of coverage at different prices. If the drugs you need do not appear on the formulary, you can purchase additional coverage.

 What do they charge?

Answer: In some cases, nothing. Humana, for example, has Medicare Advantage health plans with no monthly charge which are available for Cook County residents and which include the Part D prescription drug benefit. In other cases, there will be a charge which will be dependent on several factors.

 Is it worth it?

Answer: It depends. That’s why it is important to talk each individual’s situation over with someone who is qualified. For example, some of the Humana literature includes the following warning: “CAUTION: If you enroll in a PDP that is separate from your MA (Medicare Advantage) plan, you may lose your MA coverage.”

 When can I enroll in a PDP?

Answer: If you are eligible for Medicare, Parts A and B, you can enroll in a PDP between November 15, 2005 and May 15, 2006. Companies

Providing PDPs will be allowed to reveal their products to the public beginning in October.

Humana, of course, is interested in providing this educational service, because it also serves as a good marketing strategy for the products they will be providing.

This is an example of how Medicare is depending on the private sector to educate the public regarding Medicare, Part D.

As a Review article on August 24 revealed, educational work on this prescription drug program is also being done by the Progress Center in Forest Park and is being funded by private foundations. According to Robert Hitchcock, a regional president for Humana, the federal government will be coming out with educational programs, as well.

After consulting for several minutes with one of the Humana representatives, one octogenarian, who gets Medicare information from the internet, summed up what perhaps many people are thinking regarding this complex and sometimes confusing program:

“It all sounds good…but I’m still worried.”