For many months we’ve all been hearing about Medicare D, the prescription drug program added to the services provided by Medicare. Anyone affected by this – most of us senior citizens – have been confused, angry, and totally inundated with mailings from a host of insurance companies. We’ve received well-intentioned advice from dozens of experts. All over the country, groups have protested this latest government plan to “help” us.

Now, the younger generation is beginning to realize just what a confusing opportunity this is. Recently there have been letters to the editors of southern Maine newspapers, telling of experiences of people who are trying to make the choice for their elderly parents, friends or relatives who are unable to do the choosing themselves.

These letters use the same language most of us have used: hard to understand, costly, time-consuming and nightmare. Perhaps when more of the younger generation becomes involved, improvements will be made and it won’t take a 100 page booklet to explain.

Are you one of the thousands of Mainers (like me) who signed up years ago for the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled program offered here in Maine? This became known as “DEL” and was a big money saver for those who qualified.

That program will be discontinued at the end of this year. After hours spent agonizing about what to do, and more hours on the phone to a variety of places, the state has – at least for now – answered one of the first questions I asked:

What will thousands of DEL recipients do now? If they couldn’t afford the drug coverage and/or insurance before Medicare D, they can’t afford it now.

As I was deciding how long I could realistically wait before signing up for an insurance plan, the state came through in the form of a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of MaineCare Services, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (don’t you love the layers of government?). Apparently this was sent to all who currently receive prescriptions through the DEL/MaineCare program.

According to this Dec. 2 letter: “You must be enrolled in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan by Dec. 31, 2005 so you can get help with your drug costs. The State of Maine will help pay any premiums, and some of the other costs you may have for a Medicare Drug Plan but only if you are enrolled in a plan that has a contract with the state.

“By the middle of December, the state will automatically assign you to a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that best meets your current drug needs based on the information we have about drugs you have been taking during the past three months; a plan which has a pharmacy in your community; and requires the lowest co-payments from you when you pick up your drugs.

“If you choose NOT to let the state enroll you in a Plan and you want help from the state with your drug costs, you need to call the Pharmacy Help Desk (1-866-796-2463) to find out if the company you choose has a contract with the state and/or return this letter by Dec. 9, 2005.

I’m wondering if those younger generation letter writers who are struggling with the choice of drug plans for their elders, have received the letter (if their elders are under the DEL plan).

If you have any questions about all of this, call the state’s pharmacy help desk at 1-866-796-2463.

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