The third annual six-week sign-up period for Medicare's prescription drug coverage began Thursday.

Between now and the end of the year, seniors in Utah can consider options and premiums of 54 stand-alone medication plans offered here. Plans range from $17.10 to $99.50 per month. Top annual deductible is $275.

The enrollment is the third cycle of an open enrollment period for Medicare's prescription drug coverage. Of the 242,000 Medicare-eligible Utahns, more than 215,000 (89 percent) have signed up.

Program administrators say about 26,000 Utah seniors haven't signed up, and at least two-thirds of those are likely eligible for financial help or could qualify for benefits without premiums or deductible.

For those already enrolled, administrators say now is a good time to do an enrollment checkup:

• Will my premium and costs change under my current plan?

• Do I need more comprehensive coverage or have my medical needs changed?

• Will the drugs I take be covered by my plan next year? Some plans have changed drug options, and some have decreased their offerings.

• Am I satisfied with the service I've received from my plan?

Current enrollees should have already received a document titled an "annual notice of change" from their plan administrator, which spells out the answers to many of the questions.

For those who wish to enroll for the first time or make changes, however, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services encourages them to act by mid-December to leave plenty of time for benefits to be switched or activated by Jan. 1.