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Medicare Open Enrollment Begins October 15

SHINE: Serving Health Information Needs of Everyone

Medicare Open Enrollment Begins October 15

Lorraine York-EdbergLorraine York-Edberg, Western Mass. Regional SHINE Program DirectorIf you have Medicare, sometime during the month of September you will be receiving important information known as an Annual Notice of Change. It will be sent to you from your Prescription Drug Plan or your Medicare Advantage Plan. The mailing will explain any changes to your plan in the coming year regarding premiums, drug coverage (formulary), providers and restrictions. It is important to review the letter to make sure the plan still works for you. This is the time when you can join, drop or change your insurance, and the new coverage will begin on January 1, 2015.

Important things to consider when reviewing your plan changes are: Does it still cover all your medications? Did you get a letter from your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that your plan is changing? If you’ve been reassigned to a new plan, contact the new plan to assure it will cover your current medications. If not, you must switch before December 7, 2015. Also, if you’ve never joined a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D), you can do it during this time.

Review and save all letters from your plan!

During the Medicare Open Enrollment (October 15 - December 7), you will have a chance to CHANGE your coverage for next year. You can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you are already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can use the Open Enrollment to switch back to original Medicare with a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. State-certified SHINE (Medicare) Counselors can help you understand your plan changes, as well as other options you may have. Make your SHINE appointment early.

Ways to get the help you need

  • Visit to use the Medicare Plan Finder.
  • Look at your most recent “Medicare and You” handbook to see plans in your area; 2015 books will be mailed late September.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and say “Agent.” Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends.
  • Contact your local SHINE Program.

The SHINE program, Serving Health Information Needs of Elders, provides free, confidential and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. For further assistance with any Medicare issue, you can make a SHINE appointment. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the Regional Office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555 or contact your local Council on Aging.