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Medicare isn’t just something you can ignore : If you have Original Medicare, now’s the time to get down to work comparing Part D drug plans. You may be feeling the post-summer blues, but don’t let the doldrums keep you from making money-saving Medicare moves. Although it’s easier just to keep your current Medicare Part D prescription-drug plan or your Medicare Advantage plan, it’s best to look at all the options for 2016 during open enrollment from October 15 to December 7.Some people can sign up for health coverage outside of open enrollment, before November 1, because they qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP). A consumer can qualify for a SEP for such circumstances as loss of health coverage, losing Medicaid eligibility, changes in family status (for example, marriage or birth of a child), or other exceptional circumstances. Why is it worth going through this exercise? You ask because there is a huge potential to save money if you use your drug regimen to compare plans.It’s an especially good time to consider changes. Drug prices are rising and provider networks for Advantage and individual plans are narrowing. Also, about 30% of beneficiaries of traditional Medicare are likely to face big hikes in premiums for Part B in 2016 — an incentive to shop around for a cheaper Part D or Advantage plan.Unfortunately, most seniors don’t make the effort and leave much-needed dollars on the table. Be sure to review the notice that you received in September from your Part D or Advantage plan. The notice explains changes in coverage and costs. Even a small change, such as a new cost-sharing level for one of your drugs, can substantially raise your out-of-pocket cost.Here are 10 things seniors should know:

  • Your share of the Medicare costs may be larger than you expect

Medicare, the traditional benefit provided by the government, doesn’t cover all medical expenses. For example, approximately of 20% of physician fees are paid by the Medicare beneficiary. Seniors often find themselves paying out-of-pocket for many of their healthcare expenses.

  • Medicare Advantage Plans pick up where Medicare leaves off

A Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO) is another Medicare health plan choice you may have as part of Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans, sometimes called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. This insurance provides your Part A, Part B and oftentimes, Part D coverage. You use a Medicare Advantage card for health care.

  • Timing matters

Timing matters when you’re joining Medicare. When you turn 65 or otherwise become eligible for Original Medicare (Parts A and B), enrollment windows open. But some of these windows will close quickly. If you wait until later to sign up, you may have fewer choices, and you may pay more. During Open Enrollment Period, you can: Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan,change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare,

switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan,join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan,Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely among other benefits.

  • Know what you’re paying

When you’re deciding whether or not to add, change or drop plans, pay attention to what you’re paying. Look at your total out-of-pocket healthcare expenses from last year. It’s not just the premium, but check to see what may have changed with the deductible, co-pays, prescription drug costs.

  • Doing nothing is an option

If you don’t make any changes during Medicare Open Enrollment, your existing plans will rollover at the end of the enrollment period with no changes and your existing coverage will remain in effect.

  • Get help if you need it

Don’t go it alone. If you don’t understand something, ask for help. For more detailed information about signing up for Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) or Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D), including instructions on how to join, visit

To compare costs for all of the plans in your area, use the Medicare Plan Finder. After you list your drugs and dosages, you’ll be taken to another page. On the left panel, you can refine your search by your health status (excellent, good and poor), for example. Then click on “Medicare Health Plans with drug coverage.”

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