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If you qualify for Medicare, new insurance marketplaces aren't for you

While the Obama administration is stepping up efforts encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage from the new online insurance marketplaces, Kaiser Health News reports officials are planning a campaign to convince millions of seniors to please stay away – don't call and don't sign up.

To reinforce the message, the 2014 "Medicare & You" handbook – the 100-plus-page guide that will be sent to 52 million Medicare beneficiaries next month -- contains a prominent- notice: "The Health Insurance Marketplace, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, will take effect in 2014. It's a new way for individuals, families, and employees of small businesses to get health insurance. Medicare isn't part of the Marketplace."

Enrollment in health plans offered on the marketplaces, also called exchanges, begins Oct. 1 and runs for six months. Meanwhile, the two-month sign-up period for private health plans for millions of Medicare beneficiaries begins Oct. 15. In that time, seniors can shop for a private health plan known as Medicare Advantage, pick a drug insurance policy or buy a supplemental Medigap plan.

And in nearly two dozen states, some Medicare beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicaid may be choosing private managed care plans. None of these four kinds of coverage will be offered in the health law's marketplaces.

Since many of the same insurance companies offering coverage for seniors will also sell and advertise policies in the marketplaces, people may have a hard time figuring out which options are for them.

While Medicare officials steer seniors away from the marketplaces, there is nothing in the health law that prevents beneficiaries from signing up for markertplace plans. f they do, they will not qualify for premium tax credits for the marketplace plans.  

These plans may appeal to wealthy seniors – about 5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries -- who pay higher premiums for Medicare based on their income and assets, said Cubanski. But for the vast majority of seniors, Medicare’s benefit package is better and more affordable compared to marketplace coverage.

Here are answers to the most common questions about Medicare and the new healthcare marketplaces:  

-- Will I lose Medicare coverage? No.

-- Do I need a new Medicare card? No.

-- Do I have to re-enroll in my Medicare Advantage or supplement plan through the marketplace? No, these policies are not sold in the marketplaces.

-- Will seniors in Medicare have to buy supplemental insurance? No.

-- Will I be fined if I don’t buy coverage in the health marketplaces? No. As long as you have Medicare Part A, which is free and covers hospitals, nursing homes and hospice, you already have insurance, so you are not subject to the penalty that most uninsured adults under 65 will have to pay. Read the story



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