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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 eligible for the benefit. And 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.

For free and unbiased help with your drug plan options or to find out about enrollment assistance events in your area call the Nebraska Senior Health Insurance Information Program at 1-800-234-7119. You can also receive counseling over the phone by calling Medicare at 1-800-633-4227. If you’d like to compare prescription drug plans at Medicare online and find one that best meets your need.

For many people on fixed incomes, the rising cost of medications is a heavy burden to bear. Under the new health care law, the gap in 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 Nebraskans enrolled in Medicare Part D fall into the gap each year,” said AARP State Director Connie Benjamin. “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.”

AARP offers a free online resource to help older Americans avoid the doughnut hole. The AARP Doughnut Hole Calculator guides you through your prescription drug options using localized information about your plan and prescriptions to determine if or when you will fall into the coverage gap. In about 15 minutes, you can view a graph of your out-of-pocket spending by month, look up lower cost drugs for your conditions, create a Personal Medication Record and print out personalized letters to your doctors to help start a conversation about safely switching prescriptions.

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