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SHINE: Serving Health Information Needs of Everyone

Medicare Open Enrollment begins October 15

Lorraine York Edberg headshotSHINE Regional Program Director Lorraine York-EdbergIf you have Medicare, sometime during the month of September you will be receiving important information known as an Annual Notice of Change from your Prescription Drug Plan or your Medicare Advantage Plan, HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), or PPO (Preferred Provider Organization). The mailing will explain any changes to your plan in the coming year regarding premiums, drug coverage changes (formulary), providers, and restrictions. It is very important to review the letter to make sure the plan still works for you. Starting October 15 through December 7 is the time when you can join, drop, or change your insurance, and the new coverage will begin on January 1, 2018.  

I like to call this time of year “Your Annual Insurance Checkup,” because it a time when you can evaluate your current plan and decide if you want to make changes. If the plan you are in continues to meet your needs, then you may want to keep it. It is also a time where you may want to shop around for a new plan to help you save money, decrease or increase coverage.

Important things to consider when reviewing your plan changes are:

  • Does it still cover all your medications?
  • Are there any restrictions on your medication like quantity limits, prior authorization or step therapy that would make it difficult to access your needed medications?
  • Did you get a letter from your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that your plan is changing or is no longer available in Massachusetts?
  • Have you been reassigned to a new plan? If so, contact the new plan to assure it will cover your current medications. If it will not, you should join a new plan before December 7, 2017, to access the medications you need without any problems.
  • Would you like to join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or Medicare Advantage Prescription Plan? Because you’ve never joined previously – 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 an opportunity 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. Call early to get a SHINE appointment (1-800-498-4232) during Open Enrollment!

Ways to get the help you need:

  • Visit medicare.gov/find-a-plan to use the Medicare Plan Finder.
  • Look at your most recent “Medicare and You” handbook to see plans in your area; 2018 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.
  • Attend a local Presentation regarding the Annual Open Enrollment Period

The SHINE Program, Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone, 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.