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Medicare prescription drug sign-ups begin

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Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2012 11:20 pm | Updated: 11:36 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Today kicks off the annual sign-up window for Medicare recipients to choose a prescription drug plan for 2013. Enrollment runs through Dec. 7.

Help is available statewide from local counselors trained by Alaska’s Medicare Information Office. Counselors ask Alaskans to get out their red, white and blue Medicare card and a detailed list of their prescriptions, with dosage and quantity, before calling the office at (800) 478-6065.

Medicare prescription insurance, known as Medicare Part D, is provided by private insurance companies. The federal government requires all companies to offer a “standard” plan; enhanced plans are also available.

It’s a good idea to review plan choices every year, said Judith Bendersky, head of Alaska’s Medicare Information Office.

“Every year, companies tweak their plans, so the best fit for you last year may not be your best option this year,” Bendersky said.

Current Part D plan holders get “Annual Notice of Change” letters by Sept. 30. The notices discuss general and cost changes, but do not have to mention changes to which drugs will be covered.

When choosing a plan, Bendersky said, consider which drugs are covered, which pharmacies are included, and costs (the monthly premium, the deductible and the co-pay). People will want to make sure their plan covers their prescriptions and includes their favorite pharmacy. Financial assistance may be available.

Not everyone who is Medicare eligible needs a Part D plan. Someone who signs up when he or she already has insurance may jeopardize that coverage or get additional coverage through Part D, depending on the type of insurance. Those who don’t enroll when eligible may face penalties. In short, it’s worth checking.

For more information and to compare plans, visit www.medicare.alaska.gov, www.medicare.gov, watch for the November issue of the Senior Voice newspaper, or contact the local senior center.

“Act soon to avoid frustrating surprises in January 2013.” Bendersky advised.

Sarana Schell is a public information officer at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

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