The Wall Street Journal: Don’t Confuse Medicare With Obamacare
October is an important medical-insurance sign-up month for millions of Americans, both under and over 65 years old.
The annual Medicare open-enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, overlaps this year with the initial registration for the Health Insurance Marketplace, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
But don’t confuse the two. They serve different populations.
If you’re already covered by Medicare, you needn’t give the Marketplace another thought. That’s for people under the age of 65 who don’t have any health insurance. Enrollment starts Oct. 1 and runs through March 31.
“We want to reassure Medicare beneficiaries that they are already covered, that their benefits aren’t changing and that the Marketplace doesn’t require them to do anything different,” says Richard Olague, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Specifically, they do not have to change their Medicare coverage or enroll in any Marketplace plan.”
The Medicare open-enrollment period is the window for the 50 million covered to review their policies for any modifications in costs, coverage and benefits.
“It’s the one time of the year to look at other options available and make a change for a new plan that will take effect Jan. 1,” says Paula Muschler, manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a Medicare plan selection service.
Even if you’re comfortable with the plan you have, study it to make sure it hasn’t been reworked. Ms. Muschler helped a woman last year switch to another plan, saving $7,000 in out-of-pocket expenses when her first plan did away with covering costly brand-name medications she regularly used.
The Medicare open-enrollment period also differs from the initial enrollment requirements. For those new to Medicare, there is a seven-month window to register that starts three months before your 65th-birthday month and ends the third month after your birthday month.
These enrollment periods are also prime time for swindlers to rip you off, so take heed to this warning from CMS: “It’s against the law for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan.”
More information is available at Medicare.gov or at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227).
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