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A Publication of WTVP

Medicare Part D, pharmacy coverage, was implemented January 1, 2006. This implementation came with some pain and discomfort for Medicare beneficiaries and the plans offering the coverage, but in the end was very beneficial for all. Medicare beneficiaries are offered choices in how they receive their Part D coverage, from lists of covered drugs to co-payments and coinsurance to monthly premiums. Some seniors believe the sheer number of choices to be overwhelming, but trying to satisfy everyone is a difficult task. It appears that the Federal Government is indeed trying to satisfy everyone.

The coverage offered to beneficiaries is truly significant, saving hundreds and thousands of dollars a year for beneficiaries who have chronic medical conditions. The coverage is also confusing; we are all just now beginning to understand it. This is not surprising, as health care in general is confusing for everyone. If you or your parents found the Part D benefits to be so confusing that they chose to do nothing earlier this year, you should consider encouraging them to make a Part D election this year.

If you or your family member has Medicare coverage, there are important dates to remember. The Medicare Annual Election Period is from November 15, 2006, through December 31, 2006. During this time, Medicare beneficiaries have the opportunity to change Medicare medical and prescription coverage. Any change during this time will be effective on January 1, 2007. For example, if your prescription drug needs have increased over the past year, you could switch from one plan with less drug coverage to another with more. Some plans include coverage in the “doughnut hole,” or “coverage gap.”

You may also elect Medicare Part D coverage during this time if you have not already made an election earlier this year. There are less than six million Medicare beneficiaries without some type of pharmacy coverage. If you or your family member has Medicare and is without pharmacy coverage, you should consider enrolling in Medicare Part D this year. Every year you forego coverage, you are subject to penalties applied to future premiums.

From January 1, 2007, through March 31, 2007, there is an open enrollment period. During this time, you may change to another Medicare plan similar to what you may have now. You may not drop or add Part D coverage during this time period.

Medicare Advantage Plans combine both Medicare hospital and medical coverage with Part D coverage in one easy-to-use plan. Benefits normally require minimal co-payments and monthly premiums are very affordable. This is an option you may want to consider during annual and open enrollment this year. You can stop at your local social security office for the “Medicare and You” handbook for a complete listing of plan choices or you can shop various plans on the Internet at www.medicare.gov.

Although confusing, Medicare Part D is a good choice for almost all Medicare beneficiaries. If you look long and hard enough, there is a plan that appears to be made just for you. IBI

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