Fall Open Enrollment is the time of year when you can change your Medicare coverage. You can join a new Medicare private health plan (Medicare Advantage (MA) plan) or stand-alone prescription drug plan (PDP). If you have an MA plan, you can also return to Original Medicare with or without a stand-alone PDP. Keep these six things in mind while you are deciding on your Medicare coverage for 2013.

1. Fall Open Enrollment occurs from October 15 to December 7 of every year. If you enroll in a plan during this time, your coverage starts January 1. If you were affected by Hurricane Sandy and are unable to make a plan selection by December 7, you will receive an extension. See our Spotlight below for more information.

2. Review your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). Even if you like your current Medicare coverage, you should carefully read your ANOC to make sure the plan still features the benefits you need. Plans can change how they cover your care each year.

3. Help is out there. If you want to join a stand-alone PDP, use the Plan Finder tool on Medicare.gov to compare plans based on the drugs you take, the pharmacy you go to and your drug costs. If you want to join an MA plan, call 800-MEDICARE to find out what plans are offered in your area. After you have researched a plan, call the plan itself to make sure your doctors, hospitals and pharmacies are in-network and that the plan covers all of your drugs. You can also call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program for more assistance.

4. The best way to enroll in a new plan is to call 800-MEDICARE. Enrolling in a new plan through Medicare is the best way to help protect you if there are problems with enrollment.

5. If you are dissatisfied with the MA plan you enroll into during Fall Open Enrollment, you can disenroll from that plan and join Original Medicare with or without a stand-alone PDP during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP). The MADP spans January 1 to February 14.

6. Understand what you will pay for drugs and what new drugs will be covered by Medicare Part D in 2013. Beginning in 2013, Medicare Part D plans must cover benzodiazepines, as well as barbiturates for people with epilepsy, certain types of cancer and chronic mental health conditions. Medicare coverage of drugs in the prescription drug coverage gap, also known as the doughnut hole, is changing as well. In 2013, someone in the doughnut hole will have greater discounts than in previous years, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Read more about the 6 things you should know about Fall Open Enrollment for 2013 at www.medicareinteractive.org, or call our helpline at 800-333-4114.