It’s not too soon to start thinking about Medicare’s open enrollment period for prescription drug plans (Part D) and Medicare Advantage plans. Open enrollment takes place every year, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

The Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) offers free help to people with Medicare questions.

Before you make your decision, consider the following tips:

- Plan costs and coverage can change every year, so carefully review all letters and notices from your current plan.

- Make a list of all current prescription drugs you take, the doses and how often. Then, use the Medicare Plan Finder at www.medicare.gov to compare Part D plans.

- Review the 2016 Medicare & You handbook. You should receive it by mid-October.

- If you have questions, call SHIBA at 1-800-562-6900 before you sign up.

- If you have limited income and need help paying for prescription drugs, check out Medicare’s “Extra Help” program. To see if you qualify, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or go to www.ssa.gov and click on Medicare.

Every year, SHIBA offers free Medicare workshops in local areas throughout the state. To check out the event calendar, go to www.insurance.wa.gov/shiba.

To schedule an appointment with a SHIBA volunteer:

- Call our Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-562-6900 and ask to speak with a SHIBA volunteer in your local area; or

For help with Medicare in other languages, call:

- Spanish, Medicare, 1-800-633-4227

- Spanish, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, 1-866-783-2645

- Korean, National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, 1-800-582-4259

- Chinese, National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, 1-800-582-4218

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