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Insurance blitz to target older citizens

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Sep. 29--Senior citizens soon will be bombarded with sales pitches from companies preparing to provide prescription-drug insurance through Medicare.

The new federal program, which will begin Jan. 1, requires Medicare recipients to enroll with a provider.

Beginning Saturday, those companies will be permitted to promote themselves.

"Seniors will be inundated with these ads through the newspapers, television, radio and through the mail," said Don Greth, director of client assistance for the Berks County Senior Citizens Council.

The voluntary program is complicated, which means it will be tough for Medicare recipients to pick the company best for them, Greth said.

"A lot of people are going to be confused," he said.

Therefore the council will be making dozens of appearances at senior centers, town meetings and other venues in the next few months to explain the program and answer questions, he said.

Medicare recipients can begin enrolling in the program Nov. 15. Those who don't choose a provider by May 15 could face a penalty if they decide to enroll later.

"So it's very important that they make a decision before May 15," Greth said.

Medicare has approved private companies to provide the coverage, including firms that offer prescription drug plans, managed-care organizations (HMOs) and employee retirement health plans.

Each plan will vary in terms of their costs, drugs covered and prescription network.

"Because they're going to differ, it's also important for people to pick the right one," Greth said.


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