Medicare open enrollment starts Oct. 15

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Region – Medicare open enrollment, officially called the Annual Election Period, begins early this year Saturday, Oct. 15 and runs through Wednesday, Dec. 7. Whether you have original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or a prescription drug plan through Medicare Part D, now is the time to make sure you or your loved one has 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.”

More than one million Massachusetts residents rely on Medicare, the federal program that helps people age 65 and older, as well as some younger persons with disabilities, pay for health care.

During Medicare open enrollment, the Annual Election Period, people in Medicare should 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.

Massachusetts residents who need help figuring out their Medicare options should contact SHINE (Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders), a free program that provides insurance counseling. Call toll-free number at 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636) or contact your local Council on Aging or Senior Center.

For a free copy of AARP's free guide, Understanding Medicare, visit www.aarp.org/ma or call 1-866-448-3621 (please reference the publication title and D19327).