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Have you enrolled in your drug plan yet?

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How to choose a plan
Before you sit down and examine the plans available in your area, first come up with a list of the medications you currently take and add up how much you're spending on those drugs. Then go online and access the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder, an online tool that allows you to compare offerings and coverage options in your area.

These online resources make it easier for you to see what kind of coverage each plan offers. They help you to identify plans that will be accepted by your preferred pharmacy (and other nearby pharmacies), as well as highlight which plans provide for additional cost-savings, such as those available through mail-order prescriptions.

People taking a large number of different medications might find that no one available plan's formulary will really fit their needs and, in such cases, a doctor's assistance could prove helpful.

"Have your doctor review both the drugs you're currently taking and the formularies of the two or three plans you may be considering, and ask if there are any options or changes you can make," says Deane Beebe, communications director of the Medicare Rights Center.

Things to consider when you compare plans
Coverage: Check to see if the plan covers your specific prescription drugs. Medicare drug plans have a list of drugs covered by the plan (a formulary) that must always meet Medicare's requirements. Even though a particular drug might be on the plan's list, there may be special rules for filling the prescription.

Be aware that a plan's formulary may change during the year because drug therapies change, new drugs are released, and new medical information becomes available. If there is a formulary change that affects a drug you take, your plan must notify you at least 60 days in advance. You might then have to change the drug you use or pay more for it. In some cases, you can continue taking the drug you were on until the end of the year. You can also ask for an exception or appeal.

Cost: Check to see how much your prescription drugs cost in each plan. If you currently have prescription drug coverage, compare your current costs to the costs of the Medicare drug plans you are considering. Your monthly premiums, deductibles and your share of the cost of each drug (copayments and/or coinsurance) will vary with each plan. You may be able to pick a plan with or without a monthly premium, yearly deductible or coverage gap.
Convenience: Make sure the plan's pharmacies include the ones you want to use. Some plans also allow you to get your prescriptions through the mail. And if you spend part of the year in another state, make sure you find a plan that will also cover you there.

Once you find a Medicare drug plan that'll best suit your medication and financial requirements, join it by either calling the plan or enrolling online. By now there's just not enough time for the old fashioned paper application ... since the clock is ticking.

Need help comparing plans?
Go to www.medicare.gov on the Web and under "search tools" select "compare Medicare prescription drug plans."
Call (800) MEDICARE, (800) 633-4227. TTY users should call (877) 486-2048.
Call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program.
Have your Medicare card, a list of your drugs and their dosages, and the name of the pharmacy you use on hand.
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