In one respect, Medicare is simple. If you are over 65, you receive health insurance through the government.

But any one who has been through the process knows that navigating the system us anything but simple.

Everyone has to sign up for Medicare Part B (which covers doctors visits) and get a “medigap” policy with a private insurer to pay the portion of bills that the program doesn’t cover.

And every year, participants can elect to sign up for a Medicare Part D program to cover their prescription costs.

Many of these programs are changing, and what might have been a good deal last year may not be as good this year. And another option may be even better than the first one was.

Fortunately, seniors can get some help. During the open enrollment period that runs through the end of the month is an opportunity for Medicare recipients to go over their plans, with a free counselor.

In Greater Portland the place to go is the Southern Maine Agency on Aging (call 396-6500 to make an appointment). In other parts of the state, you can contact your agency on aging by calling (877) 353-3771.

These consultations can help people better understand what coverage they are entitled to and what is the most cost-effective way to cover their share.

Next year, the baby boom generation will reach 65 and start becoming eligible for Medicare, stressing the system and likely driving more changes.

So its good for elderly Mainers to inform themselves about their coverage and be prepared.