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Alaskans Helping Alaskans Navigate the Medicare Maze

By Caslon Hatch, Health, Science and Technology Reporter, chatch@ktuu.com
Published On: Nov 13 2013 07:50:06 AM AKST
Updated On: Nov 13 2013 09:25:58 AM AKST

With just a few weeks left in the Medicare open enrollment Part D plan period, the state is encouraging patients to sign up before the deadline December 7.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

With just a few weeks left in the Medicare Part D open enrollment period for prescription drug plans, the State of Alaska is encouraging patients to sign up before the Dec. 7 deadline.

That’s why the Alaska Medicare Information Office is offering its services to provide help for seniors signing up for what can be a confusing process.

“A big question I get asked is, 'Do I need Medicare Part D?'" said Jeanna Larson, the office's health program associate. "And I always tell people it’s like buying fire insurance for your home – you want to buy it before the house burns down.”

Every Thursday until Dec. 7 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., there will be assistance at the Anchorage Senior Center, helping seniors like Cassandra Betts sign up for Medicare open enrollment.

“It takes all the guesswork out of that great big packet coming into your house and you say, 'OK, what do I do with this?' and they take care of that for you,” Betts said.

Larson also warns about potential Medicare scammers. She says to watch out for the typical warning signs, such as anyone calling over the phone trying to get personal information like Social Security numbers or banking information.

“One (scam) we’re really telling seniors is to watch out for persons calling on the phone and saying you need a new Medicare card because of the new health care law; that’s not true,” Larson said.

There are 23 different prescription plans available in Alaska starting in 2014, and Larson and people like her help find the best one for people’s individual needs.

“What we say at the Medicare information office is that the best plan that works for you is the plan that covers all your medicines at the right costs and works with your pharmacy of choice,” Larson said.

Part D of the Medicare coverage means that starting Jan. 1, Betts will be paying a lot less for her prescription needs.

“I’m saving another 20 to 25 dollars a month,” Betts said.

“We’re not selling insurance; we’re not getting kickbacks -- we’re just helping provide what’s available here in Alaska,” Larson said.

For more information, call the state's toll-free Medicare helpline at 1-800-478-6065 or the Anchorage office at 907-269-3680.