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Clock ticking for Seniors Medicare Drug Plan Sign-Up

December 13, 2010

BOSTON - Massachusetts seniors sifting through their options for the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan have until the end of the month to make their choices: Open enrollment ends December 31. Free counseling is available to help elders make their decision on which plan to choose.

It's a matter that needs attention, according to Christie Hager, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"It's an important time for them to review what their health needs are - how their health status or health needs may have changed in the previous year, how they may be anticipated to change in the upcoming year - so that they can make sure that they choose the plans that are best for them."

Under the Part D plan this year, Hager says, beneficiaries are covered up to just over $2800. When that amount is reached, recipients pay the full cost out of pocket up to just over $4500, when catastrophic coverage kicks in. She says many Massachusetts elders fall into that "doughnut hole," as it's called, but she notes that the health care reform law passed earlier this year will cushion the blow.

"In 2011, those seniors who hit the doughnut hole are going to experience some new discounts, 50 percent discounts on brand name drugs, when they hit that gap in prescription drug coverage."

If you need help sorting through your choices, free counseling is available by phone. It's provided by the SHINE program (Serving Health Information Needs of Elders) by calling 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636).

Medicare Part D information is at www.mass.gov

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA