Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt visits
the Church on the Rise May 6 as part of a nationwide bus tour
to discuss the new Medicare prescription drug program. (Photo
by Jeff Gallatin)
hopes bus trip gets citizens on drug plan
By Jeff Gallatin
Published May 10, 2006
the deadline for enrolling in the new Medicare
prescription drug program nears, federal officials hope a road trip
inspires citizens to get on the bus and join the program.
Federal Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael
Leavitt stopped by the Church on the Rise in Westlake May 6 to discuss
the program with people prior to the Monday enrollment deadline.
Leavitt and other federal workers have been on a bus tour of the
country to try to inform people about the program and get them enrolled
“This affects millions of people in the country,”
Leavitt said. “We want to make sure people are properly informed
about the program and the options available to them.”
Danielle Yaggi, a communications assistant on the
trip, said they had stopped at over 300 cities along the way.
“We’ve been getting a good response from people when
we meet with them one on one and in groups to discuss the plan,”
Leavitt said they decided to stop at Westlake because
one staff member used to live about a mile from the church and another
is from Fairview Park.
“We try to stop at locations where there are a large
number of people who are affected by the plan,” Leavitt said. “We
try and stop at locations where we can partner up with people and
organizations who can get people involved and in the program.” He
noted there are are about 1.3 million Ohio residents signed up with
about 300,000 still eligible.
With the turnout at about 10 people, Leavitt met with
different people and discussed the plan with them.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt discusses
the new Medicare prescription drug program at Westlake's Church
on the Rise Saturday. (Photo by Jeff Gallatin)
One church member, Bob Smalley of Avon, said he got
a flyer at the church about the event and decided to come.
“I’ve got a mother in her 80s who this affects,” Smalley
said. “She didn’t really think the plan would affect her because
she doesn’t have prescriptions right now. But I stopped here to
find out about it and make sure everything is taken care of for
Smalley said he appreciated the opportunity to meet
with a federal official about the plan.
During his 11 years as governor of Utah before taking
the cabinet position last year, Leavitt was known for innovations
in health care work as well as using the Web and technology to better
Leavitt said he enjoys the combination of meeting
with people as officials are doing on the bus trip and letting them
know how to use modern technology to learn more about the plan.
He said the bus trip is one way of getting people
“We want to make sure people know about the plan and
get signed up,” Leavitt said. “Even though people may not have a
need for prescriptions right now, they may later. We want them to
sign up before the deadline and get the benefits from the program.”
He said concerned children, relatives and friends
such as Smalley are a primary target audience to get information
to so they can work with the older citizens who can enroll in the
Leavitt said signing up can be done in three easy
“Get your prescriptions and medical bottles together,
then get your Medicare card,” Leavitt said. “Then call 1-800-MEDICARE
or go online at www.medicare.gov.”
He said seniors and the friends or relatives helping
them will be able to talk to people about the best plans for each
person or find information online about it.
“If people sign up before the deadline, they can start
saving on the drugs, and if you don’t need them now you still get
the lowest cost protection for when you do,” Leavitt said.