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November 12, 2008 > Medicare Part D Open Enrollment Period Begins in November

Medicare Part D Open Enrollment Period Begins in November

Upcoming Seminars Will Help Explain Drug Plan Changes and Updates

As the annual open-enrollment period for Medicare Part D, the federal insurance program's prescription drug coverage approaches, millions of seniors will have the opportunity to enroll in a drug plan that best fits their specific needs. There are a range of options that are available but knowing how to maneuver through the Medicare Part D program and making the best choice is not a simple task.

Starting on Tuesday, November 18, Washington Hospital will conduct two free seminar classes that will provide helpful information about Medicare Part D to both those planning to enroll or change their current plan and those who will be helping someone choose a Part D plan.

"All Medicare Part D plans have changed in one way or another from last year," says Linda Dawal, Health Insurance Information Service Coordinator for Washington Hospital. "The upcoming seminars are intended to help people learn about the most affordable and complete coverage options available so that they can choose a plan that best fits their needs."

There are many things for someone to take into account - including premiums, deductibles and payments for your drugs. Convenience is also important. Which pharmacies are close to your home and will they cover your necessary prescriptions? Fortunately, there are resources available to help answer these difficult questions.

"There is a drug plan out there that can help lighten the cost of medication for each individual," says Dawal. "My goal is to help you find that plan."

The Donut Hole or Coverage Gap is the portion of the Medicare Part D plan where, after a certain point, the Medicare beneficiary is 100 percent responsible for the costs of the medication. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Donut Hole phase begins when the covered medication costs reach $2,700.

"It's important that people take the time now to re-evaluate what medicines they're on and whether they will be covered under their existing plan," adds Dawal. "Unfortunately, all plans will have a "donut hole" in 2009."

Basic Points That Will Be Covered at the Seminars:
* Introduction to Medicare Part D - Changes and Updates for 2009.
* The basic drug benefit structure will be discussed.
* When and where to enroll.
* What it will cost.

Different Scenarios That Will Be Addressed:
* My current plan does not cover one of my prescription drugs.
* My current plan won't cover all of my costs next year.
* I have limited income and resources.
* I have prescription drug coverage through Medi-Cal.
* I have prescription drug coverage through an employer, union, or retirement plan.
* What if I lose my employer or union plan coverage later?
* I have a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO).
* I have a Medigap plan.
* I have prescription drug coverage through TRICARE, the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA), or the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB).

Open enrollment starts on November 15 and continues through December 31, with the choices taking effect on January 1, 2009. If you enroll after Dec. 31, 2008, you will be subject to paying a one percent per month penalty on top of your average monthly premium.


Choosing the Best Medicare Part D Plan for You.

What should people focus on when choosing the best Medicare Part D plan? Dawal says people need to assess their individual needs and review each plan's guidelines. She says people need to pay close attention to plans that offer convenient access to pharmacies and offer the best prices on medications.


Medicare Part D seminars at Washington Hospital will take place on these dates:

Tuesday, November 18
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Washington West, 2500 Mowry Ave, Fremont
Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B

Wednesday, November 19
10:00 am to 1 p.m.
Washington West, 2500 Mowry Ave, Fremont
Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B

"It's actually a very easy process and we explain everything in a way that the people can understand," says Dawal. "Come to the seminar and we'll leave you with a total understanding of Medicare Part D."

To register for one of the Medicare Part D seminars, call (800) 963-7070.
Washington Hospital's Health Insurance Information Service (located at 2500 Mowry Ave., Washington West) offers free, confidential and unbiased health insurance counseling. Call (800) 770-9447 for more information.

Medicare customer service representatives are available to provide information and answer questions at 1-800-MEDICARE. You can also visit their website, www.medicare.gov.


Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Important Dates

October 31, 2008
All Medicare beneficiaries by this date should receive the 2009 "Medicare & You" handbook that includes detailed information about prescription drug plans available to them. The handbook also will include information about Medicare Advantage Plans that offer prescription drug coverage.

November 15, 2008
Open enrollment period begins.

December 8, 2008
If you are enrolling for the first time or choosing a new plan, Medicare recommends that you decide and sign up by this date in order to make sure your new prescription plan card is mailed to you by Jan. 1, 2009.

December 31, 2008
Last day to enroll.

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