Annual open enrollment for Medicare starts Saturday

The annual enrollment period for Medicare starts Saturday and ends 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 that will take effect Jan. 1.

During the Medicare open enrollment period, you can:

-Switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage (as long as you are 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 if you are eligible)

-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.

Medicare beneficiaries with income less than $2,116 per month and limited assets might qualify for programs that help pay for Part B monthly premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Some programs even help to pay for prescriptions. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program can help with these applications.

SHIP, a free and impartial counseling program for people with Medicare, is facilitated by the Indiana Department of Insurance and Administration for Community Living. It also is part of a federal network of State Health Insurance Assistance Programs located in every state.

With more than 100 SHIP sites throughout Indiana, a SHIP counselor is never far away from those who need assistance. SHIP offers numerous events and presentations throughout the state 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 Medicare Advantage plans based on their specific needs. A listing of SHIP events can be found at

All of SHIP’s services are offered at no charge to consumers. 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.

If you or someone you know needs help with their Medicare questions, call the SHIP helpline at 800-452-4800 or the TTY line for the hearing impaired at 866-846-0139. You also can find SHIP online at

The search for dedicated SHIP volunteers is ongoing. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, visit