Medicare’s open enrollment period began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7. To help alleviate any confusion seniors may have with the new insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the AARP has posted a detailed question-and-answer article, written by Marsha Mercer, on its website. Excerpts are below.
To read the full article, go online to aarp.org, click on “Medicare & Medicaid News” in the left column and then, when the new page opens, click on “Medicare Open Enrollment Q&A,” which is in the center of the page under “In the Spotlight.”
For more information from the government, visit medicare.gov.
Q: I have Medicare. Can I use my online state insurance marketplace to compare and buy a Medicare Advantage, supplement or prescription plan?
A: No, the marketplaces (also known as health exchanges) are not for Medicare beneficiaries. They are mostly for uninsured Americans and do not offer Medicare Advantage, medigap supplemental policies or Part D prescription plans. Medicare is not changing because of the marketplaces.
Q: What if I mistakenly sign up for insurance on the marketplace, will my Medicare coverage be automatically canceled?
A: No, if you have Medicare coverage, you won’t qualify for insurance on the marketplace. But if you do sign up for a plan accidentally, cancel the marketplace policy.
Q: But I’m a Medicare beneficiary, and someone contacted me and said I could buy insurance through the marketplace. What’s up?
A: It’s illegal for someone to knowingly sell a Medicare beneficiary a marketplace plan. Watch out for scammers. Do not share your Medicare number or personal information with anyone who says he or she can sell you a plan through the marketplace.
Q: Can I get the premium tax credit that people get when they buy insurance on the marketplaces?
A: If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you’re not eligible for the tax credits, but you already get a substantial break on costs. Plus, if you’re a Medicare beneficiary with limited resources and income, you may qualify for low-cost Part D drug coverage under the Extra Help program. Go to ssa.gov, call 1 (800) 772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office.
Q. I’ve just become eligible for Medicare, but I haven’t signed up yet and haven’t started collecting Social Security. Can I choose coverage on the marketplace instead of Medicare?
A. Yes, but be aware that if you fail to sign up for Medicare during your initial seven-month enrollment period, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty. Also, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you can sign up only during the general enrollment period — Jan. 1 through March 31 — and your coverage won’t begin until July.
Q: I’ll turn 65 next year and will become eligible for Medicare, but I don’t have health insurance now. Can I use the marketplace?
A: Yes, you’re uninsured and can buy a plan on the marketplace now that will be effective Jan. 1. Once you receive Medicare coverage, you should cancel the marketplace plan.
Q: I’m 65, a legal immigrant with a green card and have lived in this country for three years. Can I get Medicare coverage?
A: No, Medicare requires that you have lived in the United States continuously for five years. You may qualify for a health insurance plan on the marketplace, which does not have a residency waiting period.
Q: I’m 65 and Medicare-eligible, but I’m still working and covered by my employer’s health plan. My employer says she may terminate the company plan next year. What are my options?
A: If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A or Part B when you were first eligible because you were covered by a group plan based on employment — yours or a spouse’s — you can sign up for Part A or Part B (or both) anytime you’re still covered by the plan or during an eight-month period that begins the month after your coverage ends.
Q: I’m eligible for Medicare but didn’t sign up on time, and I haven’t bought insurance through the marketplace. Will I have to pay a fine?
A: Yes, if you’re uninsured and don’t qualify for an exemption to the requirement that everyone carry health insurance in 2014, you will have to pay.