Senior Life

News & information for the seniors in our community

Medicare annual open enrollment period underway

Department on Aging offers free counseling on Medicare plans

SHIP helps with insurance options

Call 800-548-9034 or visit

Send a link to a friend 

[October 16, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Department on Aging Director John K. Holton, Ph.D., announced Tuesday that free counseling assistance is available to help educate Medicare-eligible individuals and their caregivers regarding their Medicare insurance options. Medicare open enrollment started Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. The department's Senior Health Insurance Program, known as SHIP, provides free counseling for Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers.

"Annual open enrollment is time to review your Medicare Part D, Medicare Advantage plan or check current coverage to make sure your benefits are working for you," Holton said. "I encourage people to use this time to reread any letters you've received from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, review your current plan and (take) note of any changes in costs and benefits that will take effect next year. Medicare coverage and determining which of the different options to select can be overwhelming, but a SHIP counselor can help."

To help people make the best choices, SHIP counselors can explain the drug, health and supplemental plans that are available for seniors and people with disabilities. The SHIP hotline, 800-548-9034, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. For SHIP sites, go to

SHIP is a year-round program, not affiliated with any insurance company, and counselors do not sell or solicit any type of insurance. Counselors educate and answer questions about Medicare A, B, D and Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement policies, Extra Help for Part D, long-term care insurance, and employer/retiree health plans. Counselors are adept at filing Medicare appeals and will help make sense of the paperwork associated with Medicare, such as explanation of benefits notices and bills from medical providers. SHIP counseling services allow for peace of mind, knowing that you are getting the most from your health insurance benefits.

[to top of second column]

It is important to clarify that the Medicare open enrollment, Oct. 15-Dec. 7, is not the same as the open enrollment that started Oct. 1 for uninsured people to sign up for coverage on health insurance exchanges or marketplaces. Enrollment to purchase health coverage on the new marketplace, which in Illinois is called Get Covered Illinois, runs until March 2014. If you have health coverage through Medicare, the new marketplace will not have any effect on your Medicare coverage.

To compare 2014 drug and health plans and find out more about Medicare, including preventive services now covered, visit the federal website at

The mission of the Illinois Department on Aging is to serve and advocate for older Illinoisans and their caregivers by administering quality and culturally appropriate programs that promote partnerships and encourage independence, dignity and quality of life. For more information, call the Senior HelpLine at 800-252-8966 (or TTY 888-206-1327 for the hearing-impaired) or go to the website at

[Text from Illinois Department on Aging file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

Archived articles

< Senior Life index page

Back to top