Medicare Counseling - Provided by SHIP

Medicare Part C and D Open Enrollment

October 15 – December 7


CALL SHIP AT 410-313-7392


Due to COVID19 Howard County will be offering remote counseling appointments by phone. 

SHIP will not be able to accommodate in person appointments or walk-ins as all counseling will be done remotely. You do not need to have a computer or internet access for SHIP to help you.  Please read the information below to help you prepare and understand what to expect during your remote counseling appointment with a Certified SHIP Counselor.



Scheduling for plan reviews begins October 6th


Please call 410-313-7392 to leave a message to schedule an appointment with SHIP.  Because of the increased volume due to Open Enrollment, we are unable to answer our phones live. Calls will be returned within 3 business in the order that they were received.  Please leave only one message on this line as more than one message will only slow our process.  SHIP will make several attempts to reach you within 3 business days. 


Once you have scheduled your plan review with SHIP, please download the “Plan Review Worksheet” to record important information during your appointment.     



SHIP will help you compare drug plans, but you will need a account before your appointment. We will need your username and password to access your account in order to perform a personalized drug search at the time of your appointment. 


Don’t have a account? 

Setting up an account is easy and doesn’t require an email address.  Visit to set up an account.  CMS has also created this instruction sheet to help. By creating an account your drug list will be stored for future reference. 


SHIP can help you set up your account, but please keep in mind that we have only a limited time frame for each appointment and we want to make sure we have enough time to help you review your plan options. You can also create or update your drug list in advance of your appointment once you’ve accessed your account.


Already have an account

Please make sure you can still access your account.  If you have forgotten your username and/or password, you can instantly retrieve your information at by answering the security questions you selected when you created the account. We strongly recommend logging on if it’s been awhile to make sure you can.  You can create or update your drug list in advance of your appointment once you’ve accessed your account. Even if SHIP helped you set up your account, we do not keep your username and password on file.



What if I don’t want to use to compare plans?

If you do not wish to set up a account, you can perform a drug review by using the “general search” option in the Medicare Plan Finder tool.  If you do not have a Medicare number yet, as many who are researching options before their coverage begins, you will have to perform a general search.

Performing a drug review without accessing your account means that you will have to reenter your drugs each time you want to perform a plan comparison using the Medicare Plan Finder.  No information will be saved for future reference.

The other thing to consider when choosing to use the general search option, instead of, is that if you have Extra Help, a federal subsidy that helps with drug plan costs, you will have to know the level of subsidy you are receiving and manually enter that information into the Medicare Plan Finder to get accurate pricing.  A personalized search through your account will automatically factor in the subsidy and be reflected in plan costs. 



If you are currently in a Medicare Advantage Plan who is considering switching to a different Medicare Advantage plan, we can help guide you on how to compare plans and enroll yourself.

Your first step is to see what Medicare Advantage Plans are available in Howard County for 2021. 

Your next step is to research the plans you are interested in.  The link below is a resource that can help you know what to consider and what questions to ask when you are considering joining a new Medicare Advantage Plan:

Once you’ve researched the details of the plans available in Howard County, whether your current doctors participate, the costs to you for medical and drug benefits, you can contact 1-800-MEDICARE or the plan itself to enroll.  SHIP does not have detailed information about supplemental benefits offered by Medicare Advantage Plans.  Contact the plan directly about the supplemental benefits coverage details, like dental and vision, and any additional premiums that may be charged. 

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

If you are currently in a Medicare Advantage Plan, the Fall Open Enrollment Period isn’t your only opportunity to switch plans.  There is also a Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP) that lasts from January 1 through March 31 each year.  During this time, individuals enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan may make a single change:

  • Switch between MA Plans
  • Or, switch to Original Medicare with or without a Part D plan.

Any change made during the MA OEP is effective the first day of the following month.



Medigaps (Medicare Supplemental Policies) are not subject to the Medicare Part C and D Open Enrollment Period. Medicare beneficiaries can shop for a new Medigap policy anytime of the year but may be subject to medical underwriting. 


Due to our high appointment volume, and the time sensitivity of Open Enrollment, SHIP is unable to help beneficiaries with information regarding Medigap policies unless you are new to Medicare.  Once Open Enrollment ends, we will be happy to show you how to compare plans and shop for new policies.   


If you don’t want to wait, there are great resources available from CMS (Choosing a Medigap Policy 2020, CMS Product No. 02110) and the Maryland Insurance Administration (Monthly Premiums for Medicare Supplement Policies) to help you find a new Medigap policy.  Another option is to use the services of an insurance broker to help.  SHIP does not have a list of brokers in the area, but we suggest asking friends and family for referrals or reaching out to the Maryland Insurance Administration (410-468-2000 or 800-492-6116).