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Medicare open enrollment starts Nov. 15


Mark your calendars: Medicare Open Enrollment starts Nov. 15, and ends on Dec. 31, 2010.  Whether you have original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or a prescription drug plan through Medicare Part D, now is the time to make sure that you have the right plan for the year ahead.

“A lot can happen in a year,” said Deborah Banda, state director of AARP Massachusetts, which represents more than 800,000 members age 50 and older in the Bay State.  “You may have been diagnosed with a new medical condition, changed medications, or moved.  There may also be changes to your Medicare plan.  Now is the time to take a close look at your medical needs – including prescription drugs – and make sure you have the Medicare plan that’s best for you.”

During Medicare Open Enrollment, also called the Annual Election Period, people on Medicare are allowed to check their current Medicare plan, and, if necessary, switch to another plan.  For example, a person might change from a Medicare Advantage plan back to original Medicare, switch Medicare Advantage plans, or join a prescription drug plan.

Not sure where to start?  AARP’s free guide, Understanding Medicare, helps those who are new to the program, as well as consumers trying to navigate the many different options and resources available.  Topics covered include:

• your Medicare choices;

• paying for Medicare;

• buying Medigap insurance;

•what to do if you can’t afford Medicare payments; and,

•answers to common questions, plus the 12 facts you should know about Medicare.

Massachusetts residents who need assistance figuring out their Medicare options should call SHINE (Serving the Health Information needs of Elders), a program that provides free health insurance counseling services to older and disabled adults.  SHINE counselors are trained to handle complex questions about Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage, prescription drug assistance programs, and more.  To find a SHINE Counselor near you, call toll- free 800-AGE-INFO or contact your local Council on Aging or Senior Center.

To order a copy of AARP’s free guide, Understanding Medicare, email or call toll-free 1-866-448-3621.  Please include the publication title, and reference D19327.

For more information about Medicare, visit or call 1-800-MEDICARE.

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