Early sign up for Medicare coverage changes

Oregonians with Medicare will be preparing earlier than usual this year for the annual enrollment period when they can change health or prescription drug coverage. People can make coverage changes starting Oct. 15, a month earlier than usual.

This change ensures Medicare has enough time to process any changes so that coverage begins without interruption on Jan. 1.

“The first thing to do is watch the mail for a letter from your insurance company outlining any changes to your benefits or costs in 2012,” said Lisa Emerson, manager of the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program of the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

The required Annual Notice of Change letter will arrive this month. Some plans may not be available next year so reading the letter will help you avoid surprises. After Dec. 7, beneficiaries will generally have to wait another year to switch plans.

SHIBA is a federally funded program available to help Oregon’s more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries. Program counselors are available statewide to provide free, unbiased one-on-one assistance during annual enrollment. Here are some SHIBA tips for enrollment success:

Find your insurance cards: You may need your red, white, and blue Medicare card to review benefit details or enroll in a new plan. If you have a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, you may also need that card.

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