Confused about Medicare? Get Free, Unbiased Help from United Way’s Area Agency on Aging

The Annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period is right around the corner. Running from October 15th through December 7th, Medicare beneficiaries can compare insurance options and plans to see if changes are needed for the next calendar year. If so, Open Enrollment is the only time of year that changes can be made.

If you’re on Medicare, there are many reasons why you might be considering a different insurance plan. Maybe you’ve experienced a change in your health; maybe your insurance provider is no longer covering a particular medication; or one of your doctors may no longer accept the insurance coverage you currently have.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which is a program of United Way’s Area Agency on Aging, provides free, unbiased Medicare counseling and education to help Medicare beneficiaries make informed choices regarding their insurance benefits. “Everyone is looking for ways to save money or get better coverage for their money, and a plan comparison is a great way to help with this,” said Susan Hackney, SHIP Coordinator at the Area Agency on Aging.

Anyone who is currently enrolled in, or eligible for, Medicare can call 1-800-AGE-LINE to schedule an appointment for in-person counseling or an appointment by phone. In addition, Open Enrollment events will be hosted at various locations throughout Jefferson County, where one-on-on counseling will be available as well. A Plan Comparison Form is located on the Area Agency on Aging’s website at Filling out the form in advance of an appointment can help make the best use of your time with a counselor.

Counseling will be available at the following locations on the dates indicated, in addition to in-person appointments at United Way of Central Alabama’s office throughout the Open Enrollment period.

Birmingham Public Library

2100 Park Place, Birmingham, AL 35203

Friday, October 20th from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday, November 17th from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Five Points West Regional Branch Library

4812 Avenue W, Birmingham, AL 35208

Friday, December 1st from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Bessemer Public Library

400 19th Street North, Bessemer, AL 35020

Friday, October 27th from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Below are a few reminders to help you make the best-informed decision during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period.

  • Don’t be rushed into making a decision.
  • Don’t make a decision because a broker or agent is nice.
  • Don’t get distracted by “extras” that make a plan sound great.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to get Medicare counseling. December 7th is the last day to make changes to your plan.
  • Don’t choose a plan just because a family member, fiend or neighbor likes it. It might not be right for you.
  • Don’t worry about Medicare options, call 1-800-AGE-LINE and make a SHIP appointment!

SHIP is available throughout the year to assist with information on Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare savings programs, Medicaid, prescription drugs, billings and claims, rights and protections and long-term care. But Open Enrollment is the only time you can actually make changes to, and sign up for, coverage.

Call 1-800-AGE-LINE for more information.