LONG BRANCH, NJ – The important fall Medicare Open Enrollment period gets underway on October 15th, but seniors don’t have to wait until then to receive answers to their Medicare questions. Family & Children’s Service (FCS), Monmouth County’s oldest nonprofit social service
agency, is offering free, impartial, confidential counseling to qualified Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of income, through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

“Our specially trained SHIP staff and volunteers are here to help you cut through the confusion and take the stress off of the Open Enrollment process," says Samantha White, FCS Manager of Volunteer Services. “We don’t provide legal advice or recommend any specific insurance product or provider. We simply want to help you select the best Medicare and Medicare Part D coverage options to meet your needs.”

During the Open Enrollment Period, which runs from October 15th to December 7th, current or newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries can make a number of changes to their plans, including:

- Change from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage.
- Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer drug coverage.
- Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
- Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another
- Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.

White encourages Medicare beneficiaries to re-evaluate their insurance annually because coverage can change and shopping around for the best plans can save money. SHIP counselors can also help determine if a person may qualify for Medicare’s “Extra Help” program to assist with prescription drug costs. Nationwide, it’s estimated that more than 2 million beneficiaries are eligible for the program, but are not currently enrolled.

White also suggests scheduling a counseling session as soon as possible. Last year, FCS’s SHIP counselors helped nearly 600 people during the Open Enrollment period averaging 45-50 calls per day, a more than 10% jump over the previous year. To meet the increased demand, counselors volunteered extra hours. Currently, FCS has 17 volunteer counselors serving at 16 different locations and a variety of informational sessions throughout Monmouth County.

Upcoming informational sessions are scheduled for:

• 2 pm, October 30th 2pm at the Monmouth County Connection, 3544 Highway 66, Neptune, NJ
• 11 am, November 7th at the Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch, Shrewsbury
• 3 pm, November 12th at the Monmouth County Library Main Branch, Manalapan, NJ

To schedule your free, confidential counseling session with a trained, unbiased counselor please call FCS at 732-728-1331. To learn more about this or any of FCS’s 11 programs, or if you’re interested in becoming a SHIP volunteer, visit us online at www.fcsmonmouth.org

About Family & Children’s Service
Family & Children’s Service (FCS) strengthens, protects and preserves the dignity and independence of people in need. With 105 years of history, FCS is the oldest nonprofit social service agency in Monmouth County and a leading volunteer organization. Our Mission is to provide compassionate care, intervention and education to support people at challenging times in their lives.

We accomplish this through 11 programs focused on the needs of multiple at-risk populations, including: Adult Protective Services, Healthy Buddies, an intergenerational childhood obesity prevention program; Home Care; Kids Corps, a teen volunteer initiative; Operation Sleighbells, a holiday giving program for children; Reading Buddies; an in-school childhood literacy program; Representative Payee, a financial management program for the mentally, developmental and physically disabled; Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP); Statewide Respite Care, State Health InsuranceProgram (SHIP), a Medicare counseling service and The Thrift Boutique. Learn more at www.fcsmonmouth.org.

Family & Children’s Service provides compassionate care, intervention and education to support people during challenging times in their lives.

Learn more about us online at: