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Illinois Cares Rx

Submitted on Wed, 03/14/2007 – 02:31.
Story by Juanita Santiago

Illinois seniors can apply for a prescription drug program over the Internet for faster approval, but determining the best prescription drug program for seniors under the Federal Medicare Part D continues to be a challenge.

The Illinois Cares Rx program provides seniors and disabled persons an option to bridge the spending gap when out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs go up under the federal Medicare Part D program, effective since January 1, 2006.

Created by the “No Senior Left Behind” law, applications for the Illinois Cares Rx program are now available online at the Illinois Department on Aging to allow seniors to apply for benefits.

“This is our outreach effort for the month of February,” said Jessica Woodward, spokesperson for the department.

Woodward said Gov. Rod Blagojevich is encouraging seniors to use the online application because it is the fastest way to get approval for prescription drug assistance offered by the state.

Chicago advocates for the elderly say the program is a step in the right direction, but they want to see more plans available to seniors.

“It’s not enough. Maybe it might be better than nothing,” said Peggy Griffin, organizer for Metro Seniors in Action, a Chicago-based organization that advocates for seniors. Griffin and others want to see more plans available to seniors.

Griffin points to the Single Payer Health Insurance plan, by which health care expenditures are paid through one source: the federal government or a subcontracting entity using tax revenue from individuals and employers. It’s the type of program she wants to see in Illinois because the current “hybrid” system is too hard to understand.

“It confuses seniors, and we don’t need any confusion. We need something very simple,” said Griffin of the current system, known as a point-of-service plan that leans toward privatization of drug companies.

Medicare Part D prescription drug program will pay 75 percent of prescription drug costs up to $2,400 after a $265 deductible, with an average $24 per month premium. The gap where a beneficiary has to pay all the drug costs between $2,400 and $5,451.25 is commonly referred to as the “donut hole.”

“It’s a problem because some people will do real well with it and others won’t,” Griffin said. “We want some equalization, where everyone will have a right to proper care.”

Michael Brennan, board president for Metro Seniors in Action, said seniors need a prescription drug option built around their needs, not the needs of drug and insurance companies.

“We don’t need the insurances companies, they’re the reasons why it’s so expensive,” said Brennan. “If you cut out all the expenses of the insurance companies, then you can cover everybody.”

The Illinois Department on Aging sent booklets and postcards to seniors and disabled persons who submitted Illinois Cares Rx applications last year, Woodward said.

With people banking online and shopping online, Griffin said, “I guess it’s gonna be our world now, I think we need to accept the fact that it’s here,” in reference to some seniors have trouble using the Internet.

Illinois Cares Rx has provided assistance to nearly 245,000 seniors already and the department will continue to accept applications on paper or over the telephone for the state program.

Seniors with questions about Illinois Cares Rx can call the Senior HelpLine at 1 (800) 252-8966, or visit

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