If you are a Medicare recipient, you have the opportunity to make changes to your Medicare coverage during the Medicare Open Enrollment, which begins October 15 and runs through December 7, of every year.

It’s during this time that you may:

* Join a new Medicare Advantage Plan

* Join a new Part D Prescription Drug Plan

* Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan

* Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare

Generally, Open Enrollment is the only time you may elect these changes and any changes made will go into effect on January 1, of the next year. To get ready for Open Enrollment, you should think about two major things:

First, think about your current health and drug coverage. If you have Original Medicare, you should review the 2018 Medicare & You handbook to find out what your Medicare cost and benefits will be for the upcoming year.

If you are unsatisfied with your coverage with Original Medicare, Open Enrollment is a good time to make changes. You should receive your 2018 Medicare & You handbook by the end of September.

If you have not received a 2018 Medicare & You handbook you may contact Nebraska SHIIP at 1-800-234-7119, for a copy.

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan or a Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and an Evidence of Coverage (EOC) from your plan. These notices outline which providers, pharmacies, drugs and services your plan covers and what cost you will be responsible for in 2018. If you are not satisfied (for example, if a provider you see is no longer in your Medicare Advantage Plan’s network or a drug you need is no longer on your Part D plan’s formulary), you can make changes during Open Enrollment.

Next, you should think about cost. Costs can vary greatly between the different types of Medicare Advantage Plans and Part D Prescription Drug Plans. Some Medicare Advantage Plans charge additional premiums on top of the Medicare Part B premium. Some Part D plans have a deductible, while others do not.

Another plan in your area could offer you the same or better health and/or drug coverage at a more affordable price or have fewer or no coverage restrictions.

Even if you are happy with the coverage you get or don’t see any major changes to your plan, you should review your current coverage and look at other options in your area to see if there are other plans that cost less and/or offer better coverage.

Nebraska SHIIP

Help is out there. Nebraska SHIIP is your local source of free, confidential and unbiased Medicare education and counselling. Nebraska SHIIP will assist you in the evaluation of your Part C Medicare Advantage Plan or your Part D Prescription Drug Plan and help you decide if changes are necessary. You can contact Nebraska SHIIP at 1-800-234-7119 to make an appointment for your free one-on-one counselling session.

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