Baton Rouge --- This month, tens of thousands of Louisiana residents must deal with an increase in their monthly premium for Medicare Part-B.  The Louisiana's Department of Health has a solution for these senior citizens and people with disabilities who qualify for Medicare.  Through the Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), these Louisiana residents can save $799 per year in Medicare premiums alone if they qualify.  Nearly 250,000 people in Louisiana are eligible to receive help through MSP, but only half actually participate 

Medicare Part-B, which covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment and other items, increased to $66.60 a month in January 2004.  This was an increase of 13.5 percent above the premium for 2003.   

“With the rising costs of Medicare Part-B premiums, many Louisiana residents who have access to health coverage cannot afford to utilize it,” said Secretary David W. Hood. “There is an answer for many of these individuals. More than 100,000 seniors and people with disabilities are eligible for help from the state to pay these premiums, but they have not yet applied.” 

Medicare Savings programs were designed to protect people with disabilities, as well as low-income seniors ($1,011 per month for an individual and $1,364 per month for a couple) from the growing cost of receiving Medicare coverage.  Many potential participants are not aware of the program, are reluctant to apply for public assistance or are hindered by what they think will be a burdensome and complex application process. 

LDH has developed and implemented initiatives to improve MSP enrollment.  Initiatives include:  simplifying the enrollment and renewal process by making available an online and mail-in application form, thereby eliminating a face-to-face interview; conducting community-based outreach; developing customized marketing materials to reach specific communities; and revising data collection methods to improve program analysis.   

For more information about MSP call toll-free 1-888-544-7996  or visit the MSP Web site  More Information about Medicare changes for 2004 can be found - The Internet site for the Department of Health and Human Services.