Carbon County's Area Agency on Aging is urging seniors on Medicare to take advantage of the upcoming open enrollment period.

Medicare open enrollment, which allows people to switch to different Medicare plans without being penalized, begins Tuesday, Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7.

Susan Zeigler, care management supervisor for the county Area Agency on Aging, explained that the open enrollment period is for people who have Medicare Part D, which handles medications; and the Advantage Plan, which covers hospital and doctor visits, as well as medications.

To help, the agency is hosting free Open Enrollment checkups over the next two months. Certified counselors will be available at the following locations between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and will look to make sure the plan you have is the best one available for your needs.

On Mondays, seniors can visit the Lehighton Senior Center, located at 243 S. Eighth St., Lehighton.

Tuesdays: Weatherly Senior Center, 335 Third St., Weatherly.

Wednesdays: Jim Thorpe/Penn Kidder Senior Center, 1874 State Route 903, Suite 11-A, Jim Thorpe.

Thursdays will be held at the Palmerton Library, 402 Delaware Ave., Palmerton, which is a change of location from last year's checks.

Fridays: Lehigh Carbon Community College, Carbon campus, 24 E. Locust St., Nesquehoning.

You must bring the following items to the appointment:

Ÿ Your Medicare card

Ÿ Pennsylvania Access or managed care identification cards if you have Medicaid;

Ÿ Any other insurance or prescription drug cards and benefit booklets;

Ÿ The approximate monthly out-of-pocket dollar amount you pay for prescriptions and other medical co-pays;

Ÿ The approximate monthly amount you pay now for insurance plan premiums;

Ÿ Any letters about insurance coverage from Social Security or Medicare about your eligibility for extra help or changes in prescription drug coverage;

Ÿ Any letters from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare about changes to Medicaid coverage, Medicare health plan premiums or prescription drug co-pays;

Ÿ Any other correspondence about Part D coverage, including letters from your employer, union or retiree insurance plan;

Ÿ A complete and up-to-date list of all medications currently being taken, as well as the strength of the prescriptions and daily dosage.

In addition, the agency will also provide an extra screening to see if the person meets the guidelines for APPRISE, the state health insurance assistance program, which could provide financial assistance with paying Medicare Part B premiums, lower prescription co-pays and premiums, or cover the cost of the "doughnut hole."

Zeigler said that these checks are important because it will make sure seniors are getting the most out of their coverage.

She highlighted one particular case that happened last year.

One beneficiary hadn't had her plan checked in three years and after a comparison, the agency was able to help her save $12 a month on her premium and drastically reduce the costs for her medications.

"If you haven't had it checked in a while, it's always good to at least check to see what's out there," Zeigler said. "You could save a lot of money."

To schedule an appointment with a counselor, call the Area Agency on Aging, Monday through Friday at 1-800-441-1315.