HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is reminding consumers that the annual open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries will begin Oct. 15 and end Dec. 7. Any new coverage selected or changes to existing benefits will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

During open enrollment, new Medicare beneficiaries can sign up for Medicare Prescription Drug coverage and health plans to complement Medicare, and current Medicare beneficiaries can review and join, switch, or drop Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Coverage so that it better meets their needs.

In order to help Medicare beneficiaries sort through their options, the department offers free, objective health benefits counseling through Pennsylvania Medicare Education and Decision Insight . Through Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), PA MEDI counselors can assist Medicare beneficiaries with plan comparisons, help with enrollment in a new plan, and evaluate eligibility for any of Pennsylvania’s Medicare cost-savings programs.

During this time of year, consumers may see television ads or hear them on the radio with celebrities endorsing Medicare Advantage plans’ extra benefits and free offers. Although these ads may mimic official Medicare communication, the ads are from brokers or agents who receive financial incentives to enroll beneficiaries in these plans.

“Navigating health care options can be confusing, tedious and overwhelming. Unfortunately, ads from brokers or agents offering enticing incentives can add to the confusion. PA MEDI counselors do not endorse any insurance company, product or agent. When comparing insurance plan options, older adults should consider their current health situation, plan benefits, access to providers, available plans in their area, and overall costs, coverage and convenience being offered,” said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. “We encourage all new or current Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of the free independent counseling services available through PA MEDI. These trained counselors can help guide seniors to be more informed and confident in deciding what options may be the best for them.”

PA MEDI provides free, confidential, objective, and easy-to-understand information about Medicare Advantage Plans, prescription drug plans, and Medicare Supplement plans, allowing Medicare beneficiaries to compare plans and determine what best meets their needs. This work is done with the help of nearly 650 PA MEDI volunteers housed in local AAAs across the commonwealth.

Individuals can learn more about PA MEDI, events and programs, or becoming a volunteer on the Department of Aging’s website or by calling the PA MEDI Helpline at 1-800-783-7067, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Older adults can also call their local AAA.