HICAP, the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, had a busy, successful fall. In the last three months of 2012, our HICAP Counselors provided over 2,200 appointments and answered over 3,400 phone calls.

We helped Medicare beneficiaries save over $1.1 million by making changes to their Medicare coverage, primarily by changing their Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

We currently have 11 registered HICAP Counselors, and had three in Del Norte County during the fall, so you can imagine how busy we were. Half of our HICAP Counselors are volunteers who are committed to keeping up with the complexities of Medicare and related programs.

Now that the Medicare Annual Enrollment period is over (it was Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 last year), there are other important dates to consider:

If you never enrolled in Medicare when you were first eligible, you can sign up for Part A (hospital) and Part B (medical) until March 31 for a July 1 effective date.

If you are turning 65 soon (within the next few months) you should know you have a seven-month enrollment period from three months before your birthday month ending three months after your birthday month.

People who have been receiving Social Security Disability Income for 24 months will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and B) effective the 25th of the month.

In addition to individual appointments, HICAP offers monthly workshops on a variety of Medicare subjects. The next workshop will be held Thursday, Feb. 28, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Del Norte Senior Center, 1765 Northcrest Drive. No reservations are required.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call HICAP at 464-7876.