COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Department of Insurance - through the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) - is helping Ohio beneficiaries understand their plan options, providing enrollment assistance and explaining how to avoid predatory sales practices during the Jan. 1 to March 31 Medicare Advantage open enrollment period.

Medicare Advantage open enrollment allows people on Medicare to make a single plan election into or out of a Medicare Advantage plan, sometimes referred to as Part C. This type of Medicare health coverage is comprehensive and can include prescription drug coverage.

"Beneficiaries are advised to carefully evaluate their plan options with the help of a family member or trusted advisor, not be pressured into making a quick decision and be aware of misleading sales pitches and promises that seem too good to be true," Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson said.

People with Medicare can contact OSHIIP at 1-800-686-1578 with any questions, help determining a plan most suitable for their budget and healthcare needs, and to report any concerns regarding inappropriate or predatory sales practices by insurance agents or companies.

Here are the different coverage scenarios permitted during Medicare Advantage open enrollment:

* If a person on Medicare currently has Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage, they can use open enrollment to select a different Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverages, Original Medicare and a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, or a Private-Fee-For-Service plan and a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.

* If a person on Medicare currently has a Medicare Advantage plan with no Part D prescription drug coverage, they can use open enrollment to select a Medicare Advantage plan or Original Medicare without prescription drug coverage.

* If a person on Medicare currently has Original Medicare with a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, they can use open enrollment to select a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage or a Private-Fee-For-Service plan with the same stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan.

* If a person on Medicare currently has Original Medicare without a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, they can use open enrollment to select a Medicare Advantage plan without prescription drug coverage.

Ohioans can call the OSHIIP hotline at 1-800-686-1578 with questions about Medicare.