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October Medicare letters note 2011 drug plan changes; fewer plans next year


Seniors, their adult children encouraged to check letters; some will need to choose new plan

ANCHORAGE - Seniors need to watch their mail and get ready for changes to 2011 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Insurance companies are offering fewer plans in Alaska next year: 26, down from 41 - so elders and any family or friends who help them are encouraged to carefully review their Part D Annual Notice of Change letters.

Insurance companies send these letters each October, explaining any plan changes. The letter will tell enrollees if their Part D plan has been discontinued. If so, the letter will also tell them if they are automatically enrolled in a new plan, or if they need to choose a new one.

Part D's annual open enrollment is Nov. 15-Dec. 31 this year.

Alaskans are encouraged to compare plans every year. As existing plans change, new plans are offered, and people's prescription needs evolve, a different plan may provide better value. Some 2011 Alaska plans have stopped covering certain drugs, changed their deductibles or raised premiums, for example.

Another factor to consider is that new federal law lowers the cost of prescriptions in the "doughnut hole," a gap in Part D coverage.

For help comparing the plans available in Alaska, call the Medicare Information Office: 269-3680 in Anchorage, 1-800-478-6065 toll-free statewide. Medicare Information Office staff and volunteers also offer local Part D workshops during open enrollment.

The office is part of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Senior and Disabilities Services. For more information, visit medicare.alaska.gov.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for Americans 65 and older or with certain disabilities. For national Medicare information, call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227), or go to medicare.gov.

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