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Paynesville Press - November 23, 2005

Take time to study options

If you are a Medicare beneficiary, in the next several months you can expect to see and hear plenty of messages about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit (Medicare Part D).

During this first open enrollment period, which started on Wednesday, Nov. 15, it may help to focus on a few simple tips:

Remember Key Dates Mid-October: You should have received "Medicare and You 2006," a booklet providing information on Medicare prescription drug plans (Part D) available to you.

Also, more comprehensive information, including formularies and participating pharmacies for each plan, will be provided at

Nov. 15, 2005: Enrollment begins.

Jan. 1, 2006: Part D drug coverage begins.

May 15, 2006: Open enrollment ends. People who decide to enroll after May 15, 2006, may have to pay higher premiums if they enroll at a later date.

Regardless of your income or whether you currently have prescription drug coverage, you should take some time during this period - from now to Jan. 1, if you plan to sign up right away, or until May 15, 2006 - to evaluate your options.

Bear in mind that your existing coverage may have changed with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit (Part D).

You will likely be mailed a large volume of information, including critical notices from government, your past or current employers, veteran assistance agencies and others, along with marketing materials from various Medicare prescription drug plans. To ensure no critical information is lost, set aside all of this information until you are ready to begin making a decision.

Finally, relax and remember that help is available to you as you review options over the next few months. You, your family members, friends and caregivers can receive impartial assistance from the Linkage Line at 1-800-333-2433. The Linkage Line is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program for Minnesota and provides help to all Minnesota Medicare beneficiaries, including seniors, persons with disabilities, and people with end stage renal disease.

The phone service is available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays.

Or you can call 1-800-MEDICARE for information or to sign up, or you can visit online.

(This article, the first in a series, was prepared by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Minnnesota Council on Aging.)

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