AARP reminds West Virginians that open enrollment in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans ends December 31.

If enrolled, Medicare beneficiaries are encouraged to evaluate their current plan, and if necessary, switch to a different plan.

Open enrollment runs through December 31, with coverage starting January 1, 2007.

People are urged to make their decisions early in December to allow for the timely processing of their applications.

"For the majority of Medicare beneficiaries, this is the first opportunity to change plans," said Gaylene Miller, Associate State Director for Community Outreach. "It is also the first opportunity for beneficiaries to enroll if they missed the chance during the initial enrollment period, which ended in May.

AARP encourages Medicare beneficiaries to shop around for the plan that best meets their needs and saves them money. They should sign up by December 8 so that their applications will be processed and all of their information will be in the computers by January 1."

If Medicare beneficiaries are satisfied with their current plans and coverage, and their needs have not changed dramatically, then they do not have to do anything.

Their coverage will continue. However, beneficiaries are urged to review information from their plans that may indicate changes to coverage or costs.

If beneficiaries are dissatisfied with their plans for any reason, AARP encourages them to shop around and find a better plan.

There are new plans that offer enhanced benefits, including coverage through the gap, known as the donut hole, and zero-deductibles.

To enroll in a Medicare Part D plan:

* Contact the West Virginia Medicare Call Center of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) by calling 1-877-987-4463.

* Beneficiaries with lower incomes can qualify for extra help in paying all or part of their Medicare Part D monthly plan premiums and co-payments. Counselors at the Medicare Call Center can help.

* AARP's website www.aarp.org has a wealth of general Medicare-related information in easy-to-understand language.

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