BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– Medicare open enrollment is here and this means you can make changes to your coverage that will go into effect the following year.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about being able to afford your medicine and staying healthy to be here for your family,” said Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) Senior Health Insurance Information Program Director Vicki Dufrene.

Many Louisianans are striving to do that through programs like Medicare.

“Medicare is health insurance for those typically age 65 and older,” Dufrene said. “It is basically if you look on your paycheck, you’ll see where you paid Medicare tax and that is allowing you quarters into the Social Security system to earn this insurance. There’s hospital part A, medical part B, and there’s the other little component called Medicare Part D, which is prescription coverage.”

She said it can help cover or reduce the price of health-related costs such as hospital visits, prescription drugs and other medical expenses.

“They [people] realize that the cost of living is going up. They are really weighing all of their options. We found this year we’ve been busier this year than we have in the last two years,” she said.

There are two types of Medicare, the first is Medicare Advantage which has a more modern approach on coverage.

“Advantage plans give them the freedom to use a lot of doctors. They also give them benefits that original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as a free gym membership, over-the-counter benefits, vision, dental, and hearing,” Defrene explained.

There’s also the more traditional Medicare.

“Original Medicare’s was set back in the sixties so it hasn’t made a lot of changes as far as adding a lot of extra benefits to the standard coverage of care. It is doctor and hospital, durable medical equipment like your oxygen, your wheelchairs, those types of things,” she said.

Dufrene said to make sure your plan checks all of your boxes because details change every year.

“It’s very important that they make sure that their drugs are covered, and their doctor or otherwise they are looking at out-of-pocket expenses on themselves with no one doing any cost share for them.”

Open enrollment ends Dec. 7.

If you have questions, Medicare beneficiaries can contact SHIIP by calling the LDI at 1-800-259-5300 or click here.