medicare-logoOpen enrollment is underway for Medicare — which is the federal insurance program for people who are 65 and older.

Elissa Balch is a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,”It’s an opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to compare the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans that are offered in their area to see if there is one that meets their needs in both cost and coverage compared to what they may have currently in 2016.”

Balch says it’s a good idea to check over your plans every year and if you are happy with the plan you have, you don’t have to make a change and the plan will roll over to the next year. “But it’s still an opportunity for them to compare pricing,” Balch says. “A lot of people can find a plan for the following calendar year that’s at a lower cost to them.”

Balch says there are a lot of resources to help people. “First we have our website, which is www.medicare,gov. There is a tool online for people who are comfortable using the computer where they can go in and input their Medicare information so it looks at what their specific Medicare situation is,” Balch says. She says you can use the site to compare the cost of drug plans.

“It allows them to enter the prescription drugs that they currently take or that they think that they’ll be taking for the following calendar year,” according to Balch. “And then they can do side-by-side comparisons all of the plans that are available to them where they live in Iowa.”

Balch says you can also go the state health insurance website. She says it lists volunteers throughout the entire state which provide one-on-one counseling to help you compare plans for the next year, and they can assist you in enrolling in a plan. Balch says

“There are a few plans that are currently offered in Iowa that are not going to be offered in 2017. Those individuals would have received a notice by October 2nd that provided them that information and then gave them the information about needing to find a new plan for 2017. And those individuals do have a little bit more time to enroll with Medicare because they are in a plant that’s not being offered in 2017,” Balch says. She says all people enrolled in Medicare should have received an update on their plan that indicated if there would be any changes in premiums.