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Drug card questions and answers
Some questions and answers about the Medicare-approved discount drug cards, set to take effect in June. Enrollment in the program begins May 3.

Q: How do I get a card?
A: Beginning Thursday, Medicare will tell you how to contact companies offering drug cards in your area. Call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or visit its Web site, You must request an enrollment form from the companies.

Q: How do I choose the best card for me?
A: You will need to make a list of all the medicines you take regularly. Either through the Internet or via telephone, Medicare will help you compare the prices for your drugs offered by the different cards. There will be at least 36 cards available nationally and another 35 that can be used in parts of the country. You also will want to determine whether you can use your regular pharmacy or one nearby with the card that seems best. You should consider whether generic substitutes or filling your prescriptions through the mail would save money. State health insurance assistance programs, AARP, the Medicare Rights Center and other groups also are offering help.

Q: How much does a card cost?
A: No more than $30.

Q: Is there aid available for the poor?
A: Yes. You may be eligible for $600 in government aid this year and another $600 in 2005 if your annual income is no more than $12,569 for an individual and $16,862 for a couple. You must specifically apply for the subsidy once you decide which card to choose. There is no fee for low-income cards.

Q: What if my prescriptions change or the prices offered by my card rise or my pharmacy stops accepting it? Can I change cards?
A: In general, not until next year. Companies can change their prices weekly. Medicare says it will monitor drug prices to watch for unwarranted changes and "bait-and-switch" schemes.

Q: If someone calls me offering a discount card and asking for my Medicare and Social Security numbers, should I provide them?
A: No. Companies are not allowed to call you on the telephone or visit your home to sell their cards. Never share such personal information over the telephone. Medicare officials said they are aware of alleged Medicare drug card scams in 13 states.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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