Medicare’s open enrollment for 2020 began this week on Oct. 15 and will continue until Dec. 7, 2019. During this time period, Medicare beneficiaries may make changes to their health care and prescription drug plans, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2020. Except for special circumstances, this is the only time that Medicare recipients may change their insurance plans.

Massachusetts offers an excellent Medicare counseling service called SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone). The SHINE Program is administered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs in partnership with elder service agencies, councils on aging, or public and private community-based organizations. Certified SHINE counselors help people navigate the complex Medicare insurance system. There is no charge for SHINE services in Massachusetts. Because of the complexity of Medicare, anyone attending a SHINE program is welcome to bring along a friend or family member.

The SHINE Program has scheduled special 2020 Medicare Plan Review days throughout the North Shore during the open enrollment period. Existing Medicare enrollees can make appointments to meet individually with a SHINE counselor to compare plan options for 2020 and will receive a report that explains their top three most cost-effective Medicare plan options for next year. There is no charge to attend a Medicare Plan Review day.

Advance registration at the Medicare Plan Review days is required, and attendees are asked to bring their red, white and blue Medicare cards; their current insurance cards; and their medication lists with dosage information.

In the North Shore area, the following Medicare Plan Review days have been scheduled. Please call the host agency to make an individual appointment. 

Oct. 21: Rose Baker Senior Center, Gloucester, 978-281-9765

Oct. 28: Rowley Council on Aging, Rowley Public Library, 978-948-7637

Nov. 1: Phoenix Row, Haverhill, 978-372-7597

Nov. 7: Merrimac Senior Center, 978-346-9549

Nov. 8: SeniorCare, Gloucester, 978-281-1750

Nov. 12: Georgetown Senior Center, 978-352-5726

Nov. 13: Beverly Senior Center, 978-921-6017

Nov. 15: Amesbury Senior Center, 978-388-8138

Nov. 18: Merrivista, Haverhill, 978-374-2168

Nov. 19: Mission Towers, Haverhill, 978-374-2174

Nov. 22: Haverhill Council on Aging, 978-374-2390

Nov. 26: Newburyport Senior Community Center, 978-462-0430

SHINE counselors are also available throughout the year for people new to Medicare and existing enrollees. These services are available to all Massachusetts residents at no charge. Year-round SHINE counseling locations follow. Please call the host agency for scheduling and reservations.

Amesbury Council on Aging, 978-388-8138

Andover Council on Aging, 978-623-8321

Merrimack Valley Immigrant Education Center, 978-683-7316

Beverly Senior Center, 978-921-6017

Boxford Council on Aging, 978-887-3591

Essex Senior Center, 978-768-7932

Georgetown Senior Community Center, 978-352-5726

Gloucester: Rose Baker Senior Center, 978-281-9765

Gloucester: Addison Gilbert Hospital, 978-283-4001

Gloucester: SeniorCare, 978-281-1750

Groveland Council on Aging, 978-372-1101

Hamilton Council on Aging, 978-468-5595

Haverhill Council on Aging, 978-374-2390

Haverhill: Merrivista, 978-374-2168

Haverhill: Mission Towers, 978-374-2174

Haverhill: Phoenix Row, 978-372-7597

Ipswich Council on Aging, 978-356-6650

Lawrence Senior Center, 978-620-3540

Manchester-by-the-Sea Council on Aging, 978-526-7500

Merrimac Council on Aging, 978-346-9549

Methuen Council on Aging, 978-983-8825

Newbury Council on Aging, 978-462-8114

Newburyport Council on Aging, 978-462-8650

North Andover Senior Center, 978-688-9560

Rockport Council on Aging, 978-546-2573

Rowley Council on Aging, 978-948-7637

Salisbury Council on Aging, 978-462-2412

Topsfield Council on Aging, 978-887-1523

Wenham Council on Aging, 978-468-5529

West Newbury Council on Aging, 978-363-1104

If you are new to Medicare, the SHINE Program will hold an “Introduction to Medicare” workshop at the Ipswich Senior Center on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Please call 978-356-6650 for details and registration.

If you are unable to attend one of the 2020 Medicare Plan Review days or schedule an appointment with one of the SHINE counselors during their usual schedules, please contact the SHINE coordination office at the Elder Services of Merrimack Valley at 978-946-1374 to arrange for assistance with your 2020 Medicare decisions.

Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., a local agency on aging that serves Gloucester, Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rockport, Topsfield and Wenham.

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