Health needs can often change from year to year, just as the benefits and costs of   health plan may change as well. That is why it is important to evaluate Medicare plans during Open Enrollment each year.

The Medicare Annual Open Enrollment runs through Dec.7 and is a time for Medicare beneficiaries to compare and evaluate their current plans and make necessary changes.

It is important for Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of the Open Enrollment Period by contacting the local Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) at the Jackson County Department on Aging to potentially save money, improve coverage or both. Changes must be made by Dec. 7, to guarantee coverage will begin without interruption on Jan. 1.

It’s important to contact the local SHIIP counselor before making a decision about coverage to receive more affordable and better Medicare health and/or drug plan options in the area. For example, even for those satisfied with their current plan, there may be another plan in the area that covers health care and/or drugs at a better price.

SHIIP is a division of the N.C. Department of Insurance and offers free, unbiased information about Medicare, Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medicare Advantage, long-term care insurance and other health insurance issues.

In addition to helping Medicare beneficiaries compare and enroll in plans during the Open Enrollment Period, SHIIP counselors can help people find out if they are eligible for Medicare cost savings programs.

Call the Jackson County Department on Aging at 586-5494 to schedule an appointment with a trained counselor. Due to the pandemic, the Jackson County SHIIP Program is providing a majority of the counseling over the phone and virtually. In addition, a pre-enrollment packet will need to be completed and can be picked up onsite.