Tools and tips for navigating Medicare open enrollment

Sometimes it seems as if the raging debate about overhauling health-care insurance is filling all the airwaves. Easily lost in this din is that any reform wouldn't take affect until 2013, but Americans need to take steps today to ensure they're properly covered. For seniors enrolled in Medicare, that means reviewing prescription drug coverage, known as Part D, and so-called Advantage plans, private-insurance alternatives to the government-run plan, if they participate in such programs.

Known as open enrollment, the annual process starts Sunday, Nov. 15, and goes through Dec. 31. As in years past, health-policy experts advise older Americans to not assume that their current plan, which may have worked well this year, will be as effective (or even exist) next year. Further, an existing plan could cost more -- much more -- come January.