As if Medicare were not confusing enough. Now many seniors are confused about how "Obamacare" - the Affordable Care Act soon to be implemented - will affect their Medicare. The short answer? It won't.
If you are 65 and older and receiving Medicare benefits, forget about the Affordable Care Act and the new marketplace insurance exchanges. You do NOT need to purchase new coverage through your state's insurance marketplace. Says Richard Olague, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: "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. Specifically, they do not have to change their Medicare coverage or enroll in any marketplace plan."
Various organizations, including the AARP, are trying to get this reassuring message across to seniors, but misinformation remains widespread. A recent national survey called "Fifty States of Confusion" found that 17% of those 65 and older think the new health insurance exchanges are going to replace their Medicare. One in five of the respondents thinks they are required to enroll in a new health plan under the Affordable Care Act, even though the plans are open only to those under age 65.
Part of the reason for the confusion seems to stem from the overlapping periods for Medicare Open Enrollment and enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage. The Medicare Open Enrollment period runs from October 15 through December 7; it's an opportunity for current beneficiaries to review their Medicare, Medicare Advantage or Medicare D plans plans and make changes, which go into effect on January 1, 2014. The enrollment period for those buying health insurance on the new exchanges also begins in October but lasts until March.
Another reason for confusion: scam artists. They thrive on misinformation, and are going all out to get seniors to reveal personal data by convincing them they should be signing up for new health plans. Some tell Medicare beneficiaries that they need a new Medicare number and card or another kind of new health insurance card.
If you are a Medicare beneficiary and are contacted by anyone about Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act or the new state exchanges, ignore them. No one from the government will be contacting you and there is no reason to verify any existing information, either.