The Public Square

WILL - The Public Square - August 19, 2011

Connie Georgoulis on Illinois Cares Rx

Hi, my name is Connie Georgoulis. I am a volunteer with Champaign County Health Care Consumers and a member of CCHCC's Medicare Task Force. I'm also a senior and a beneficiary of Illinois Cares Rx, a prescription drug assistance program that was cut in half by this year's state budget. Since 2005, Illinois Cares Rx has helped thousands of low-income seniors pay their Medicare Part D premiums and co-payments and provided discounted prescription drug coverage, allowing them to avoid more expensive health care, such as hospitalization, when they cannot follow their doctor's prescribed drug regimen due to high out of pocket costs.

Beginning on September 1st, anyone currently enrolled in Illinois Cares Rx with an annual income of over 200% of the Federal Poverty Level will lose their benefits. For those still eligible, their co-payments will increase by more than double for many prescription drugs. For most seniors, paying for multiple prescription drugs is already a significant expense, and will only become more difficult to afford after September 1st.

While we still have some time before these changes go into effect, I want to offer a few suggestions to support the more than 200,000 seniors across Illinois who will be impacted by these cuts. First and foremost, don't wait till September when your coverage changes to make a plan. Now is the time to figure out how these changes will affect your monthly budget and health care and prepare for them.

Think back to when you applied for Illinois Cares Rx and whether your income has changed...you may still be eligible! Talk to your local agency that helped you enroll in the program to fill out a new application. In Champaign County, the IL Cares Rx support agency is Family Service Senior Resource Center.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and ask if there are generics for the drugs you are taking or even free samples. Ask for a 90-day prescription and fill it before September 1st. This way you can get your drugs at the current (lower) co-pay levels for another 3 months.

Finally, other programs are available that can lower your drug costs. Prescription Assistance Programs provided by drug companies and charitable foundations can help with co-pays, Part D premiums, or drug rebates. Also, check out drug discount cards, such as Needy Meds and the Illinois Rx Card, which can be printed directly from the website for immediate use.

If you have questions or need help to plan for these changes to your Illinois Cares Rx benefits, don't wait till September. Call Champaign County Health Care Consumers at 352-6533 or visit us at www.healthcareconsumers.org today!

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