BERLIN — If you have a Medicare health or prescription drug plan, Open Enrollment, which runs from Thursday, Oct. 15, through Monday, Dec. 7, is the time you can make changes to your plan.

Even if you’re happy with your current coverage, you might find something that’s a better fit for your budget or your health needs. If you miss an Open Enrollment deadline, you’ll most likely have to wait a full year before you can make changes to your plan.

Here are five important things every Medicare beneficiary can do to get in the Medicare Open Enrollment routine:

1. Review your plan notice. Be sure to read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your “Annual Notice of Change” letter. Look at your plan’s information to make sure your drugs are still covered and your doctors are still in network.

2. Think about what matters most to you. Medicare health and drug plans change each year and so can your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Is your new medication covered by your current plan? Does another plan offer the same value at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change.

3. Find out if you qualify for help paying for your Medicare. Learn about programs in your state to help with the costs of Medicare premiums, your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs. You can do this by visiting or making an appointment with a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor.

4. Shop for plans that meet your needs and fit your budget. Starting in October, you can use Medicare’s plan finder tool at to see what other plans are offered in your area. Medicare also features, which will allow you to create a personalized account for your Medicare needs. Once you’ve set up an account, you’ll be able to use to manage your Medicare benefits, including:

• Checking the status of your Medicare claims.

• Reviewing your personal health records, prescription drugs, and preventive services.

• Finding information on your Medicare costs, eligibility, and enrollment.

• Printing an “On the Go Report” that summarizes your medical information for your doctors.

5. Check your plan’s star rating before you enroll. The Medicare Plan Finder has been updated with the Star Ratings for Medicare health and prescription drug plans. Plans are given an overall quality rating on a one to five star scale, with one star representing poor performance and five stars representing excellent performance. Use the Star Ratings to compare the quality of health and drug plans being offered.

If you find that your current coverage still meets your needs, then you’re done. Remember, during Medicare Open Enrollment, you can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you’re already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch back to Original Medicare.

These are a few easy ways to get a jump start on your Medicare Open Enrollment. For unbiased, free education and assistance with Medicare, you can, call 1-800- MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), and say “Agent.” TTY users should call 1-877- 486-2048. Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends.

You can also call a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor at the Coos County ServiceLink Resource Center in Berlin. SHIP counselors provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance. The Coos County ServiceLink Resource Center is located at 610 Sullivan St. in Berlin and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Due to COVID-19 SHIP counselors are unable to meet in person; however phone appointments can still be made. For more information or to schedule a phone appointment call (603) 752-6407.

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