It’s still scorching hot outside, but fall is just around the corner. And for Medicare beneficiaries, that means an important event is beginning. Medicare’s Annual Election Period (Open Enrollment) will begin on October 15 and run through December 7, allowing you the opportunity to review your current plan, shop for a plan that might benefit you more, and make the switch if you decide to do so.

The Medicare Annual Election Period can be used to make a wise decision regarding your following year’s healthcare plan, to help you better manage your out-of-pocket expenses. But you need to get organized now, so that you can make the most of this opportunity.

Gather your old statements. Your plan administrator sends you regular updates throughout the year, detailing your claims and out-of-pocket spending on healthcare. Tally up your expenses, and decide if they fell within your expected budget for this year. Even if you feel satisfied with your spending, it can’t hurt to compare different Medcicare plans anyway. You might find an even better deal.

Make a list of your medications and providers/facilities. You don’t want to be forced to change doctors or facilities because your favorite one drops out of your plan’s network. And of course, you need a handy list of your prescriptions so that you can choose a plan that covers them.

Read your Annual Notice of Change (ANOC). Your healthcare plan provider must send you an Annual Notice of Change, so that you understand any upcoming changes to your current plan. Even if you like your plan, it can change from one year to the next, so it’s important to read this notice. In particular, pay attention to changes to the plan’s formulary (list of covered drugs) and the network of providers, to be sure the medications and doctors you prefer will still be covered next year.

Consult with an expert. Comparing different Medicare plans can get complicated. Call one of our Medicare experts, and we can help you identify your priorities for a plan and then match you with one that suits your needs. But remember, the window for making changes will open between October 15 and December 7. Get ready now!