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Put it on your fall checklist: Medicare open enrollment

If you're like me, fall is an extremely busy time of year — getting the kids ready for a new school year, making sure everyone in my family gets a flu shot, getting the house and yard ready for the winter. With everything, we have going on, it's so easy to forget another activity that should be on all our fall checklists: Helping our parents prepare for Medicare open enrollment.

Medicare open enrollment gives beneficiaries the chance to review their health and prescription drug coverage for the coming year. If they need to make any changes, they can do so between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. But if they decide that they're happy sticking with the coverage they have now, they don't need to do anything else.

For all of us who are caregivers, or who just care about older parents and family members, we need to ensure that they have the right information to make the right choice. Sit down and have a conversation with them, and help them explore their options and find coverage that fits their needs.

If your parents want to go online and sort through the details, they can get an early start, and you can help them navigate the process if needed. We've already made sure that the Medicare Plan Finder is updated with all new 2018 cost-and-benefit information for health and drug plans and is ready right now. All your parents need to do is start by entering the drugs and checking on the doctors and pharmacies they want to use. A few more steps will get them a personalized list of their plan choices and help them compare.

When Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7, we want every person with Medicare to have health and drug coverage that meets their needs. But we need your help. We need you to help ensure that your older family members have the right health plan. So when you're preparing your fall checklist, don't forget to put Medicare open enrollment at the top.

For information, call Medicare at (800) 633-4227 or Douglas County elder benefit specialist Brenda Kohel at (715) 395-7533 Monday and Wednesday, or (715) 394-3611 Tuesday and Thursday.

Julie Green Bataille is director of communications at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.