EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 1, 2013

If you have Medicare, the Health Insurance Marketplace isn't for you

Roseanne DiStefano
Elder Q&A

---- — Question: Last year when I turned 65 I enrolled in Medicare A and B and chose a supplemental plan to cover deductibles and co-payments.

So far the coverage has been very satisfactory and I have had no out-of-pockets expenses other than small co-payments for my prescriptions. I have been hearing about something called the Health Insurance Marketplace. Does this pertain to me? Can you clear up the confusion?

Answer: Individuals already enrolled in Medicare should be very clear the new Health Insurance Marketplace does not impact them. This is probably going to be rather perplexing to many Medicare beneficiaries and it is our hope they will not get caught in any fraudulent activity. It is against the law for anyone who is aware a person has Medicare to sell them a Marketplace plan. If contacted by a representative of any Marketplace plan Medicare beneficiaries should not reveal any personal information.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is intended to assist people who have no health insurance. By logging on to www.healthcare.gov/health-insurance-marketplace a person will be able to review the health plans available in the area where they reside. This website will also help them determine if they might qualify for lower out-of-pocket costs. Individuals cannot be denied coverage due to a pre-existing illness or condition. This is an excellent tool to compare plans choosing the one that will provide them the best possible coverage. Consumers can also sign up for a plan through this website.

Medicare Open Enrollment takes place Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2013. This is the time for beneficiaries to examine their current health and prescription coverage to analyze any changes in costs, coverage and benefits which will take place in 2014. If they determine the plan will continue to meet their needs no action is needed. On the flip side if they feel it would be in their best interest to switch to another plan this is the time to make changes.

Some confusion may arise because the Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment takes place Oct. 1 through March 31, 2014 and overlaps with the Medicare Open Enrollment period. It is important to keep the two separate and be aware of which time frame impacts you as a consumer. If you continue to have issues differentiating between the two contact your local Medicare counseling program at 1-800-Age-Info (243-4636) and press 3.

Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff are available for no cost consultations in the home, office or community. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890. Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to ro@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc.