Medicare’s annual open enrollment period takes place from October 15th through December 7th. During this open enrollment, Medicare beneficiaries can change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the upcoming year.

During Open Enrollment, individuals can switch from Medicare Parts A & B (Original Medicare) to a Medicare Part C plan (Medicare Advantage). These are private plans that offer all the services that Original Medicare A and B provide (i.e. hospital services, doctor visits), but might also include additional benefits like vision and dental services. Individuals currently under a Medicare Advantage plan can also switch back to Medicare Parts A & B during Open Enrollment. You can also switch to a different Medicare Advantage plan.

The Open Enrollment period also provides the opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. These plans are run by insurance companies or other private companies approved by Medicare. Part D plans vary in cost and coverage. You can change to a different Part D plan during Open Enrollment.

If you are already enrolled in a Medicare plan, you should receive a notice this month about any changes to your plan. There may be changes to your existing plan – so even if you have been happy with your health plan, do still check to see if there have been changes to your costs, coverage, and the pharmacies and providers in your plan’s network. If you are okay with the changes, you do not have to do anything and will keep your current plan.

Medicare.gov is the federal website operated by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It offers a Medicare Plan Finder that allows users to compare plans when making decisions about their Medicare coverage.

Pennsylvania residents can contact APPRISE, Pennsylvania’s Medicare health care counseling program at 1-800-783-7067. APPRISE counselors can help you to better understand your coverage options and the enrollment process. Medicare beneficiaries can contact also CARIE, the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, at 215-545-5728. CARIE advocates are available to help answer questions related to Medicare, Open Enrollment and programs that help pay for Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs.