This Living Local segment is sponsored by the the United Way Area Agency on Aging.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CBS 42 Living Local) – In addition to supporting more than eighty partner agencies throughout our six-county area, United Way of Central Alabama operates many programs itself and provides services directly to our community. One of the services provided by the United Way Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is SHIP.

SHIP stands for State Health Insurance Assistance Program. We sat down with Susan Hackney who explains how this program works.

“We help people understand Medicare. Nobody understands Medicare,” Hackney says. “It’s all confusing.”

The purpose of SHIP is to provide seniors in Jefferson County with expert, unbiased assistance in understanding their Medicare options and choosing the benefits that are best for their specific circumstances.

“We’re here to take the mystery out of Medicare. Our programs are designed for people that are 60 and over, but we’ll talk to anybody,” Hackney explains. “We do a plan comparison, which can help them decide what’s going to fit their needs the best.”

Hackney says it’s always wise to check up on your insurance plan, even if you are happy with your current insurance company. “There might be a change that you wouldn’t be happy with next year.”

Open enrollment for all Medicare beneficiaries runs from October 15, 2021 to December 7, 2021.

If someone calls asking for your Medicare number over the phone, be careful. “Medicare numbers are very valuable to you,” Hackney warns. “Hold tight to that Medicare number until you’re sure it’s somebody who’s reliable.”

Call 1-800-243-5463 for direct access to SHIP and all other AAA services. There’s no income requirement to use the services of SHIP, and counselors will help everyone who calls.