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Know Your Medicare Part D Options

At the end of each year, people on Medicare have important decisions to make about their prescription drug coverage for the next year. From Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, you can enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. If you are already enrolled, you can switch to a different drug plan. If you are on a limited income, you may qualify for extra help with your drug costs. If you’re happy with the plan you have and what it’s going to be offered next year, you don’t need to do a thing. Your enrollment will continue from this year into next.

Due to the number of Part D plan changes this year, Kris Gross, director of the Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), advises Iowans to carefully review the Annual Notice of Change information they receive in the mail on their plans and do a comparison to choose the best plan for next year.

“Iowa will have 33 stand alone drug plans in 2011, compared to 46 for 2010,” says Gross. Fifteen plans are no longer being sold and two new plans were added. Ten plans offer reduced premiums and 18 plans increased theirs. The lowest premium will be $14.80. There are 10 plans which are available at $0 for people who qualify for the full Part D extra help.

An internet comparison tool is available to help Iowans compare the Medicare drug plans. This tool can help you decide if you want to stay with your current plan or switch to a plan that better meets your needs.

You can also contact SHIIP, the free, confidential service of the State of Iowa with counselors available across the state to help you compare Medicare drug plans. For information about the SHIIP site nearest you call toll-free 1-800-351-4664, (TTY 1-800-735-2942).

Under the new health care law, the gap in Part D drug coverage known as the doughnut hole will begin to shrink in 2011 and completely disappear by 2020. Next year, beneficiaries will receive a 50 percent discount on their brand-name drugs and a 7 percent discount on generics when they reach the doughnut hole. “Thirty-three percent of Iowans enrolled in Medicare Part D fall into the gap each year,” said AARP State Director Bruce Koeppl. “Fortunately, people will receive much-needed relief with their out-of-pocket drug costs when they enter the hole in 2011 and even more help with those expenses in future years.”

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