Long Branch, NJ - The Medicare Open Enrollment period has begun and Family & Children’s Service (FCS), Monmouth County’s oldest non-profit social service agency, offers a number of free programs to qualified individuals who have questions about their Medicare coverage or who may need assistance meeting their health care costs.

The Open Enrollment period, which runs through December 7th this year, is the time when current or newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries can review their current health or prescription drug plans, compare plans to other options and choose plans that best meet their current needs. FCS administers three programs designed to help people find answers to their Medicare questions and, in some cases, lower their out-of-pocket health and prescription drug costs.

For low-income Medicare beneficiaries, FCS screens eligibility two federal programs: the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and the Low Income Subsidy (LIS) program. These programs help eligible individuals pay some or all of their Medicare Parts B and D premium, deductible, coinsurance and/or co-pay costs. According to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, a person on MSP can save at least $1,000 a year, while individuals on LIS can save an average of $3,900 annually. FCS can help individuals determine if they qualify for any of these programs and assist with filling out the necessary paperwork.

“In these difficult economic times, many seniors are cutting back or simply doing without, in order to stay afloat.” says Vincent L. D’Elia, President & CEO of FCS. “We encourage qualified individuals to take advantage of these programs, because no senior should have to do without when it comes to health care coverage.”

Another operated by FCS is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP. This program provides free help to New Jersey Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of income, who have problems with, or questions about, their health insurance coverage. SHIP’s volunteer counselors are trained in areas of Medicare health insurance coverage and benefits. They provide information and assistance in dealing with claims and evaluating health insurance needs. They do not provide legal advice or sell, recommend or endorse any specific insurance product, agent or insurance provider. Currently, FCS has 18 volunteer counselors serving at 16 different locations throughout Monmouth County.  To learn more about any of these programs, or if you’re interested in becoming a SHIP volunteer, please call FCS at 732-728-1331.