It is that time of year (and this year it is even earlier), when you need to take a moment to think about your Medicare health coverage. Is my plan still meeting my needs? Are my prescription drugs covered? Is it affordable? Are there new plans out there that may better suite my needs? Do I have other coverage (retirement health plan, military coverage, or current employment coverage) and have they sent me creditable coverage information?

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is the time of year when individuals can review health or prescription drug plans, compare what will be available in the coming year, and choose the plan that best meets their needs. This year (and in the future) it is from October 15th – December 7th. There has never been a better time to check out Medicare coverage options. Comparing plans may help people with Medicare find a way to save money, get better coverage, or both.

Information is available several ways and here are three easy steps:


Have a list of your current prescription medications available, check with your current providers (doctors office, physical therapist, etc.) to find out what plans they will work with so that you can still see them, and have your gross income and assets available (so you can be screened for the assistance available that helps pay for some or all of your medical costs).


In October 2011, compare plans available in Hawai‘i in 2012.

  • Visit where you can get a personalized comparison of the costs and coverage of the plans available in your area.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) 24-hours a day/7 days a week to find out more about your coverage options. TTY users call 1-877-486-2048.
  • Get one-to-one help from the Hawai‘i State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), also known as the Sage PLUS Program. A certified trained volunteer can be reached at 808-586-7299 or 1-888-875-9229. You can also pick up a Sage PLUS Medicare Prescription Health/Drug Plan Compare from most pharmacies or on-line at Mail or fax the form in for a personalized comparison.


Enroll in a plan October 15th through December 7th so that you can enjoy the holiday season.

From January 1, 2012 – February 14, 2012 is a one-time disenrollment opportunity if you want to change from your current Medicare Advantage (MA) Health plan and return to Original/Traditional Medicare. If your MA plan includes drug coverage, you also have the opportunity to enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

There is also a new “Special Enrollment Period” that begins on December 8, 2011. At anytime during the year (2012) if you find yourself unhappy with your current choice you have one opportunity to change to a “5 Star” Plan. The stars are based on many quality indicators collected by Medicare. The 5 Stars means that the plan has done an excellent job in providing benefits, payments, limited number of complaints, drug pricing and patient safety, health plan’s responsiveness and care, managing chronic conditions and helping members stay healthy through screenings, tests and vaccines just to name a few.

If all this feels too challenging or you would like information about the new 5 Star Special Enrollment Period, don’t hesitate to call the Sage PLUS Program for guided assistance through the Medicare Enrollment Process. OR … if you would like to help your community navigate through the Medicare system by becoming a Sage PLUS Volunteer, call us at 808-586-7299 or 1-888-875-9229 or e-mail