Today I want to talk with you about the new Medicare prescription drug coverage that went into effect at the start of this year. Everyone on Medicare is eligible for this new coverage, but the enrollment deadline of May 15th is just over a week away. For those of you with Medicare who have not yet signed up, it is important for you to review your options and choose a plan. By enrolling before the deadline, you can ensure the lowest possible premiums and start saving on your prescription drug bills.
Many of you have already made the wise decision to enroll. Since the new coverage went into effect, more than 30 million Americans now have prescription drug coverage through the Medicare program, and more are enrolling each week. Recent surveys show that the vast majority of seniors are satisfied with the program, and for good reason.
Competition in the prescription drug market has been stronger than expected, and costs for seniors are lower than expected. The average premium that seniors pay is a third less than had been expected — just $25 per month, instead of $37 per month. The typical person with Medicare who previously had no drug coverage will now spend about half of what he or she used to spend on prescription drugs, saving an average of $1,100 per year.
Low-income seniors receive extra help. For them, Medicare will now cover, on average, more than 95 percent of the costs of their prescription drugs. Thanks to this new coverage, America's seniors are now getting the modern medicine they need, at prices they can afford.
Prescription drug coverage under Medicare is also giving our seniors more and better choices for their health care. Instead of having to accept a "one size fits all" plan, seniors are now choosing from a variety of drug plans, and they're finding the one that best fits their needs. Most seniors are able to choose their plans that have low premiums, low or no deductibles, fixed co-payments for most drugs, and affordable coverage to fill in coverage gaps.
Medicare prescription drug coverage is a great deal for seniors. So today, I am encouraging those of you who still have not enrolled to take a look at your options and sign up before the May 15th deadline in order to ensure the lowest premiums. Even if you do not have significant drug expenses now, you should consider joining a Medicare drug plan to protect yourself against high prescription drug bills down the road.
There are many ways you can get help to choose a drug plan and enroll. You can ask your doctor or pharmacist for help. You can speak with a Medicare counselor 24 hours a day at 1-800-MEDICARE. You can enroll online by visiting the official Medicare website at Medicare.gov. If you need help enrolling, citizens' groups like AARP and NAACP, faith-based organizations, health professionals, and pharmacies are working to answer questions. Between now and May 15th, events will be held across the country to answer your questions and help you enroll for the new drug coverage. And if you have family or friends on Medicare, you can help too. Helping can be as simple as showing an older neighbor how to fill out a form, helping a senior use the Internet, or making a call for your mom or dad.
I was proud to sign Medicare prescription drug coverage into law. Because we acted, America now has a Medicare system to fit the needs of the 21st century, and millions of American seniors and persons with disabilities are now saving a lot of money and receiving the modern health care they deserve. Over the coming days, we will continue working to make sure that everyone with Medicare has a chance to save money and enjoy the peace of mind that this new drug coverage brings.
Thank you for listening.