Dena Robinson, from right, and Hannah Hoffman, join dozens of Medicare advocates who gathered outside the Newseum in Washington to support Medicare and Medicaid funding. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Health insurers are pouring out announcements about the new products and new product features they’ll be offering when the 2012 Medicare open enrollment season starts Oct. 15.

Open enrollment season for Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare supplement plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans is set to last until Dec. 7.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that runs Medicare, is beginning and ending the open enrollment season earlier than usual this year, in an effort to make sure enrollees have their coverage in place and their ID cards in hand before the new year beings.

Many large insurers are continuing or starting alliances with retail giants, to try to reach the older people and people with disabilities who have Medicare coverage where they live.

Aetna Inc., Hartford (NYSE:AET), is starting a new Aetna CVS/pharmacy prescription drug plan with CVS Caremark Corp., Woonsocket, R.I. (NYSE:CVS). The plan will be available in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The plan has a $26 per month premium, and there is no deductible for generic drugs. Co-payments for generic prescriptions are $3.

Coventry Health Care Inc., Bethesda, Md. (NYSE:CVH), is using the pharmacies of three giant companies — Walgreen Company, Deerfield, Ill.; Walmart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark. (NYSE:WMT); and Target Corp., Minneapolis (NYSE:TGT) – to offer the First Health Value Plus Medicare drug plan. Coventry is billing the plan as the lowest premium, zero-dollar deductible Part D plan in the United States. The average monthly premium is $25.60.

Humana Inc., Louisville, Ky. (NYSE:HUM), is working with Walmart to bring back the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan drug plan. The plan, which has about 1 million enrollees, started up in 2010. In 2012, the monthly premium will be $15.10, Humana says. Humana is selling the plan in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Co-payments will start at $1, down from $2 in 2012.

The UnitedHealthcare unit at UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. (NYSE:UNH), is also talking up its drug plan program, which was established in 2006 and has 4.8 million enrollees. The company notes that its Medicare supplement program – which offers products to fill holes in Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B coverage, rather than an alternative plan designed to replace Part A and Part B coverage – recently enrolled its 3 millionth enrollees.

The Medicare supplement plans UnitedHealthcare offers through AARP, Washington, “will remain competitively priced nationwide,” the company said.

But UnitedHealthcare is setting itself apart by showcasing hearing aid benefits at its Medicare Advantage plans.

UnitedHealthcare will be offering affordable hearing devices in about 300 counties in 17 states for a modest co-payment, and enrollees in other markets will get discounts on the devices, UnitedHealthcare said.

UnitedHealthcare executives noted that traditional Medicare – Medicare Parts A and B – does not cover hearing devices.

The hearing device benefit could help some enrollees save thousands of dollars and help them stay engaged with their families, friends and communities, according to Tom Paul, the chief executive of the company’s Medicare and retirement business.

HealthSpring Inc., Nashville, Tenn. (NYSE:HS), is highlighting the fitness programs and supplemental dental, vision and hearing services benefits offered by its Medicare Advantage plans.

Priority Health, Grand Rapids, Mich., is trying to get word out that it is expanding its Medicare Advantage plan program to include 13 more Michigan counties: Bay, Branch, Gladwin, Gratiot, Ingham, Isabella, Lenawee, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Joseph and Tuscola. Priority Health will now provide Medicare Advantage plan coverage in 51 Michigan counties.

Extend Health Inc., San Mateo, Calif., a company that runs a private Medicare exchange is suggesting that Medicare enrollees consider buying coverage through the exchange.

Extend Health is illustrating its ability to help consumers figure out Medicare by explaining the new, 45-day Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP).

The MADP, which is supposed to run each year from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14, could affect enrollees with a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage who want to switch to a combination of traditional Medicare and a prescription drug plan.

The provision also could affect enrollees who are combining stand-alone prescription drug coverage with a Medicare private fee-for-service plan that does not have prescription drug coverage. Those enrollees can use the MADP to switch to traditional Medicare without a prescription drug plan, Extend Health said.