Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
HNF Stories

Just 2 Shopping Days for Medicare

medicare_patient_npr_photo.jpg

Medicare beneficiaries who want to shop for a better deal have only until Saturday, Dec. 7, when open enrollment for 2014 coverage ends. That's the last day to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (managed-care) plan or just a prescription-drug plan.

And it matters. Some Part D plans are changing the drugs they cover -- or boosting the price -- while  some of the Medicare Advantage plans are changing the doctors and hospitals in their network.

While it's been said before, here's a reminder: Healthcare.gov is NOT for seniors with Medicare plans. It is for people without insurance or those without access to affordable job-based insurance. The shopping site for elders is www.Medicare.gov

Floridians eligible for Medicare can reach out to SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) for free and confidential information. There is information online and also a hotline where you can call to speak with a volunteer counselor. Often, you’ll have to leave a message for the counselor to call you back.

Prepare by getting together your Medicare card number, date of birth, ZIP code and a list of any medications you take. Write down any questions you may have.

Phone numbers:

Statewide: (800) 963-5337 (SHINE)

National: (800) 633-4227

Other resources:

www.AgingFlorida.com, (Tampa Area Agency on Aging, Medicare Assistance page)

www.agingcarefl.org/ (Pasco, Pinellas Area Agency on Aging, Medicare/Medicaid page, under Resources tab)

www.Medicare.gov/find-a-plan (National Medicare resources)

HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE

Time is also short for uninsured working-age adults to sign up for an Affordable Care Act plan on Healthcare.gov by Dec. 23, the deadline for those who want coverage to go into effect Jan. 1. Open enrollment lasts through March 31; those who don't have coverage, except for those who have a hardship, will face a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of pay.

The federal health exchange’s troubled rollout has prompted a lot of people to hold off comparing policies and prices on the beleaguered website, healthcare.gov. But officials said Sunday the site can now handle up to 50,000 shoppers at a time with a better than 90 percent accuracy rate.

If the website’s not for you – or isn’t working -- call the toll-free line, and walk through the process with a real person.

Information you will need to know: Names, ages and estimated 2014 income information (or previous year income) for every member of your household. Also know whether they use tobacco.

Main contacts:

Online: www.healthcare.gov

Phone: (800) 318-2596, lines open 24 hours a day.

Other Resources:

Navigators and application counselors: www.localhelp.healthcare.gov (In-person assistance in your community)