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Need help with Medicare Part D? N.C. can help

North Carolina has a free program available to the 1.4 million residents who qualify for the federal prescription-drug plan.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Need assistance in deciding whether to change the federal prescription-drug plan for you or someone you care for?

The open enrollment deadline for 2010 coverage of Medicare Part D is Dec. 31.

North Carolina has a free program available to the 1.4 million residents who qualify for the prescription plan. It's called Seniors Health Insurance Information Program, and trained volunteers guide Medicare patients and their providers over the phone or in person about the right plan for them.

"At any given time, you can have a change in a product or prescription, and you may have the best plan for last year, but that plan may not be the best for you next year," said Wayne Goodwin, commissioner of the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

Even if someone doesn't think they need help or isn't sure or if they are confused, Goodwin recommends they seek out assistance at any of the state's centers.

Not only do some plans change year to year, some disappear and are not available at all.

That happened this year to Glenda Jensen's 71-year-old mother.

"It's been crazy, confusing," Jensen said.

With more than 40 plans to choose from, Jensen went to the SHIIP site in Wake County to make sure she was signing up her mother for the right plan. (View a list of SHIIP sites.)

"I figured we'll let the experts do that instead of me muddling my way through the Web site and guess, literally, at something," she said.

After less than an hour of meeting with a counselor, Jensen learned her mother should not only change plans but she qualifies for certain subsidies that could save her about $4,000 next year.

"That's huge for her," Jensen said.

For assistance, call 1-800-443-9354 or visit a counselor at a designated SHIIP site across the state.


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