The authors of an article on selecting a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan claim that “only 5.2 percent of beneficiaries chose the cheapest plan,” and add “beneficiaries on average spent $368 more annually than they would have spent had they purchased the cheapest plan available.” Even more painfully, more than a fifth of beneficiaries spent at least $500 more than they needed to. They attribute at least some of the problem to beneficiaries over protecting themselves by paying for plan features they didn’t need. The authors, Chao Zhou and Yuting Zhang of the University of Pittsburgh suggested the reasons for the overpayments included inertia and the willingness to stay with the status quo. The research used 2009 numbers but if you suspect you might be one of those seniors, it’s time to contact SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors) at 800-562-6900 and get free help choosing a plan that is best (and cheapest) for you. The current Medicare enrollment period lasts until Dec. 7.