State offering Medicare enrollment help

The Medicare annual enrollment period begins Friday and will continue through Dec. 7.

This is the one time of year when all people with Medicare can make changes to their Medicare Advantage health and prescription drug plans for the next year.

Anyone who needs help with enrollment may want to turn to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, aka SHIP, which is a free and impartial counseling program for people with Medicare.

SHIP is overseen by the Indiana Department of Insurance and Administration for Community Living and is part of a federal network of State Health Insurance Assistance Programs available in every state.

All of SHIP’s services are offered at no charge to consumers, and SHIP is not affiliated with any insurance company or agency and does not sell insurance. SHIP is staffed by a crew of volunteer counselors who have completed intensive training to offer Medicare beneficiaries objective assistance in complete confidence.

During the Medicare open enrollment period, you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (as long as you’re enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B and you live in the Medicare Advantage plan’s service area)
  • Switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare (plus a Medicare Part D plan and possibly a Medigap plan)
  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another
  • Switch from one Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another
  • Enroll in a Medicare Part D plan if you didn’t enroll when you were first eligible for Medicare (if you haven’t maintained other creditable coverage, a late enrollment penalty may apply)

If you purchase a new Medicare Advantage or Part D plan or switch plans during the annual enrollment period, the changes will begin Jan. 1.

With more than 100 SHIP sites across Indiana, a SHIP counselor is never far away from those who need assistance.

SHIP offers numerous events and presentations throughout Indiana to assist Medicare beneficiaries. During open enrollment, some of these events include assistance using the online Planfinder Tool that allows beneficiaries to compare prescription drug plans and Medigap policies based on their specific needs.

A listing of SHIP events can be found online at medicare.in.gov.

Medicare beneficiaries with income less than $2,006 a month and limited assets might qualify for programs that help to pay for Part B monthly premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Some programs even help pay for prescriptions. SHIP can help with these applications.