By JIM ROSS
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001
THURMAN SCORES VICTORY: The House of Representatives last week unanimously approved a measure that will allow the government to help pay travel expenses and other expenses for people who donate organs.
"If you're willing to help and you're willing to donate, we're going to help you," said U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, who championed the legislation. Her husband, former judge John Thurman, had a kidney transplant several years ago.
The bill calls for the government to spend $5-million each year to reimburse travel and other expenses for donors and $15-million to help states develop donor registries.
The Senate is considering similar legislation.
REMINDER FOR MILITARY VETERANS: Thurman's office reminds the public that, starting April 1, military retirees age 65 and older, as well as eligible family members, will be eligible for TRICARE for Life and the TRICARE Senior Pharmacy Benefit.
Starting Oct. 1, TRICARE will be available as a secondary payer to Medicare. In other words, TRICARE will pay most costs not covered by Medicare, thus eliminating many co-pays and deductibles.
To participate in TRICARE for Life, military retirees must enroll in Medicare Part B during the 2001 enrollment period, which ends March 31. Medicare eligible military retirees also must update their DEERS (Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System) information.
For information about enrolling in Medicare Part B, seniors can call their local Social Security office or (800) 772-1213.
To update DEERS information, visit the nearest military personnel office or mail changes to DEERS Support Office, Attn. CA, 400 Gigling Road, Seaside, CA 93955-6771.
As for the pharmacy program, eligible military retirees can access the national mail-order program as well as network and out-of-network retail pharmacies. Participants must pay $9 for a 90-day prescription through the mail. There is no annual enrollment fee.
At a TRICARE network pharmacy, the beneficiary must pay 20 percent of the prescription's cost. At out-of-network pharmacies, beneficiaries must pay a 25-percent co-payment along with a $150 annual deductible.