In 10 days, many Americans will see massive changes in how they get health insurance coverage. But if you are on Medicare, relax. The changes do not affect you.
While health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, doesn't begin until Jan. 1, the ball gets rolling Oct. 1, when individuals, families and small-business owners can start shopping for 2014 health insurance plans using the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Each state runs its own federally mandated, online marketplace. In New York, the marketplace website is nystateofhealth.ny.gov.
But what if you are on Medicare? The Affordable Care Act may be complicated and controversial, but this answer is quick and easy. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services say Medicare recipients "don't need to do anything." Medicare isn't part of the Health Insurance Marketplace because recipients are considered covered. This includes Medicare Part A (hospital coverage), Part B (doctor visits), Part C (Advantage plans) and Part D (prescription drug plans). In fact, Medicare recipients cannot buy any Medicare health coverage on the marketplace, including Medigap plans. They can revise their current Medicare plan or pick a different one as they have before, using the Medicare Plan Finder at medicare.gov during the Oct. 15-Dec. 7 open-enrollment period.
The marketplace is primarily for those under 65 who don't have health insurance or who have insurance they pay for but are hoping to find a less expensive alternative. Even those who receive coverage through their employer can browse the marketplace. It can be especially beneficial for workers thinking of retiring early, because they can buy a policy that will keep them covered until they qualify for Medicare. And remember, if you already have private health insurance, in most cases you can opt to keep your existing coverage instead of purchasing a new plan on the marketplace.
If you're still confused, you can attend two free seminars. "What You Need to Know Right Now About the Affordable Care Act," sponsored by the Nassau County Bar Association, is Tuesday at 7 p.m., at its office in Mineola. For reservations, call 516-747-4070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And "The New Health Care Law: What It Means to You," hosted by the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, is Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the society's headquarters in Garden City. For reservations, call 516-741-7304.
For more information on the changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act, go to healthcare.gov.