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Annual Medicare drug plan enrollment window opened Nov.15

Alaskans with Medicare are encouraged to shop and compare each year

ANCHORAGE - The yearly window to review and join new Medicare prescription drug plans started yesterday. The annual open enrollment period runs from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31.

Alaskans who have a plan through Medicare's prescription insurance program, known as Part D, can change to a new plan for 2010. People who have not enrolled can join.

Seniors who are happy with their current Medicare prescription plans should still review the new options introduced each year. A new plan may be more cost effective, or the shopper's medication needs may have changed, and be better met by a different plan.

Medicare recipients are charged permanent late-enrollment fees if they do not sign up the first time they are eligible. The exception is if they already have coverage - under Medicaid or a health care insurance plan such as the military's TriCare or most employer-provided plans.

For help comparing the plans available in Alaska, call the state's Medicare Information Office to be connected with its statewide network of Medicare counselors. The number is 1-800-478-6065, toll-free statewide. The office is part of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Senior and Disabilities Services.

People are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible to avoid delays in January.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for Americans 65 and older or with certain disabilities.

For more information, call Alaska's Medicare Information Office, 269-3680 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-6065 toll-free statewide, or visit medicare.alaska.gov. For national Medicare information, call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227), or go to www.medicare.gov.

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