In response to a high volume of calls to the state help-line for seniors and people with disabilities, Governor John Baldacci has outlined expanded assistance for those concerned about their prescription drug coverage under the new federal Medicare Part D program.

“It’s clear from the overwhelming reaction from thousands of Maine people that the federal program is confusing, and that people are concerned about their coverage choices,” said Governor Baldacci. “The state is working to ensure the safety and welfare of our more vulnerable seniors and disabled.”

Letters to people who currently receive dual coverage – coverage by both Medicare and MaineCare – as well as people who are enrolled in the Drugs for the Elderly program have been sent from the Department of Health and Human Services. The letters notified people that the state would be automatically enrolling them in a Medicare Part D plan UNLESS they opted out of auto-enrollment by notifying the state by this Friday. They were instructed to mail back a form to the Department stating that they chose to opt out.

The state established a help-line – 1-866-RX-MAINE – to receive inquiries and requests to opt out of auto-enrollment. On Monday, the help-line received 21,000 calls.

To handle the intense call volume and ensure people get the information they need, the hours of the help-line have been increased from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Additional staff have been brought on to answer and return calls. Additionally, the deadline for choosing to op-out of auto-enrollment is extended from Friday, Dec. 9, to Wednesday, Dec. 14.

Only those choosing not to participate in auto-enrollment need to call the help-line.

Everyone else will be notified of the plan chosen for them by the state. If people want the State to help them with their costs as we have been doing, they do not need to call. The state has been handling the prescription drugs needs of Maine seniors and the disabled enrolled in MaineCare and Drugs for the Elderly and is working to ensure that the Part D plan they enroll in best meets those needs.

The Governor reminded citizens of the additional help the state has pledged for those impacted by the Medicare Part D program. “Along with choosing the Part D plan that best meets an individual’s drug needs, we will assist Mainers served by MaineCare and Drugs for the Elderly with Part D’s premiums, deductibles and co-pays.”

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