Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2007

Enrollment for drug coverage ends Dec. 31

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JUNEAU - Alaska seniors interested in getting prescription drug coverage through the Medicare Part D program have until the end of the month to sign up.

Senior citizens are encouraged to enroll before the Dec. 31 deadline to avoid benefit delays.

Call (800) 633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE) to sign up. The line is open 24 hours a day, including weekends, but the line will be closed Dec. 25.

Processing a new enrollment usually takes two to three weeks, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. People who sign up at the last minute will have coverage beginning Jan. 1, but they may have to pay for prescriptions out of pocket initially and be reimbursed later.

Medicare recipients who do not sign up the first time they are eligible will pay a late fee when they do enroll, with the exception of those who receive both Medicare and Medicaid and those who have health care coverage that is comparable to Medicare.

Those who are insured should have received a "creditable coverage" letter saying whether their plan provides benefits similar to the Medicare prescription drug plan, according to the state department.

Seniors should retain these letters, because the proof of creditable coverage allows them to switch from their current plan to Medicare later with no penalty.

If people switch to a Medicare plan they may not be able to switch back, so seniors must be sure that adding a Medicare prescription plan does not jeopardize their current coverage, or that the Medicare drug plan provides a better benefit for them.

For assistance comparing Medicare prescription plans available in Alaska, call the Senior Information Office at (800) 478-6065.

For additional details on Medicare, visit

Last Fort Richardson troopers return

FORT RICHARDSON - The final group of Fort Richardson soldiers are returning home from Iraq.

About 60 paratroopers, assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), were scheduled to arrive Saturday night at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

The flight completes the 3,500-soldier redeployment to Fort Richardson after 14 months of duty in Iraq. The others have been arriving in waves in the last few weeks.

Following processing at Elmendorf, the troops were to be bused to Geronimo Gym at Fort Richardson to meet with their families and friends late Saturday.

Wyo. man chargedin plane threat

ANCHORAGE - The man who falsely claimed to have taken a bomb onboard an Alaska Airlines flight last month has been indicted on a federal charge of threatening to destroy aircraft with an explosive.

Kirk Frederick Forest of Wyoming was arrested at Ted Stevens International Airport after threatening to blow up the Nov. 28 flight from Seattle to Anchorage.

Passengers say the 38-year-old Forest paced the aisles of the airplane clutching a Bible and mumbling religious phrases before making the bomb threat.

A search by the FBI revealed there was no explosive onboard. The plane was carrying 150 passengers.

Man gets 13 years on drug, firearms charges

ANCHORAGE - A 26-year-old Anchorage man will serve 13 years in a federal prison for his convictions on drug and firearms charges.

Joshua E. Pate was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to two counts, drug conspiracy and possession of firearms by a felon.

The U.S. Attorney's office says Pate pleaded guilty to being the leader of a group engaged in selling cocaine, both powder and crack, in the Anchorage area between February and August 2006.

A search of Pate's residence turned up five firearms and ammunition, that he was not permitted to possess.

Officials say Pate's sentence was enhanced by the fact of his extensive criminal history.

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