Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug) Open Season

The annual Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) season has begun and continues to December 7, 2013.

Everyone currently enrolled in Medicare can purchase a Part D plan to help with prescription drug costs. Unlike Medicare Part A (Hospital) or Part B (Medical) parts of Medicare, you purchase Part D (Prescription Drug) coverage through private insurers by shopping for the plan that best suits your personal needs. Enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.

If you already have a Part D plan, reviewing it now would be a good idea.  A coverage plan that was good for you this year might not be your best choice for 2014 because of changes in your medical needs or changes to the Part D plan. Now is the time to list your medicines, including dosages and frequency, in order to review and compare available plans. Based on individual needs, spouses might choose different plans.   

Although Social Security representatives cannot help you compare plans, many states have agencies or groups providing services to seniors and people with disabilities that do. The official Medicare website,, has a Part D section, with an online method to find and compare Prescription Drug insurance plans. The Medicare toll-free phone number is 1-800-MEDICARE or TTY 1-877-486-2048. 

In North Dakota, the State Health Insurance Counseling Program (ND SHIC) provides free assistance in choosing a Part D plan. Learn more at  or call 1-888-575-6611 or TTY 1-800-366-6888.

In Minnesota, the Senior LinkAge Line ®, part of the MN Board on Aging, offers the same free service. The toll-free Senior LinkAge Line ® number is 1-800-333-2433.

Even though Social Security representatives cannot assist people in choosing a Medicare Part D plan, the agency does administer the Extra Help portion of Medicare Part D. While all Medicare beneficiaries can participate in the prescription drug program, some people with limited income and resources also are eligible for Extra Help to help pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.  

More about Extra Help next week.