Seek Expert Advice: A Guide to Open Enrollment [Part 4]

November 14, 2017

by: The My Medicare Matters Team

This article is the fourth installment in our 2018 “Preparing for Open Enrollment” series. To stay up-to-date on the latest Open Enrollment blog posts, subscribe to our mailing list. For a complete overview of Open Enrollment, check out our “Guide to Open Enrollment” page.

Read the first OEP blog post: “Watch Your Mailbox: Preparing for Open Enrollment [Part One] »

Read the second OEP blog post: “Gather Your Things: Preparing for Open Enrollment [Part Two] »

Read the third OEP blog post: “Go Shopping: Preparing for Open Enrollment [Part Three] »

With so many details of Part D and Medicare Advantage plans, sometimes you just need a little help. If you’ve followed along with this blog series and done your homework, then you’ve reviewed your Annual Notice of Change and Evidence of Coverage to learn about what’s changing in your plan in 2018. Then, you went to the site, entered your medications, and compared plans at the Medicare Drug and Health Plan Finder. You’ve also collected mailers from insurance plans, printed documents from many of these websites, and maybe even printed a few of these blog posts–and now you feel like you’re drowning in paperwork. It’s time to check-in with an expert! Check out our top four picks for expert advice below.

  1. The Medicare Questionnaire tool, created by the National Council on Aging. For access to free Medicare advice from a licensed benefits advisor, try taking our Medicare Questionnaire. Through the Questionnaire, you can learn more about all of the plans available to you during Open Enrollment, and then figure out if you might want to switch to a cheaper or more highly rated plan. You can choose to speak to this licensed benefits advisor by phone, or make an appointment to meet with them in-person (in most areas). If you would prefer to compare options on your own (rather than speak to an advisor) there is also an online plan comparison tool that allows you to easily weigh the pros and cons of your different coverage options.
  2. State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Another expert resource is your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP is a federally-funded service that provides free, unbiased Medicare counseling. You can find your local SHIP office here: SHIP doesn’t sell insurance but can help you understand the differences among your choices. You can speak to a SHIP Counselor by phone or make an appointment to meet with them in-person (in most areas). This is a particularly busy time of year for SHIP with Medicare’s Open Enrollment period so be patient with the office. If you don’t hear from them in a couple of days, then call again. SHIP may have another name in your state. For instance in Missouri it’s known as CLAIM, in Florida and California it’s known as SHINE, and in Oregon it’s known as SHIBA.
  3. Visit your local Area Agency on Aging. Just like SHIPs, they offer expert, federally-funded advice for a range of older American issues. You can find yours through the government’s Eldercare Locator site.
  4. The plan finder tool on  No time to consult with an expert? Become your own expert by using the Plan Finder tool on You can choose to complete either a general or personalized plan search to compare your current coverage and plan rating against all of the other plans in your area; the general search requires only your zip code, while the personalized search requires your zip code as well as your complete Medicare information.