Just 2 Shopping Days for Medicare
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.
Statewide: (800) 963-5337 (SHINE)
National: (800) 633-4227
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.
Phone: (800) 318-2596, lines open 24 hours a day.
Navigators and application counselors: www.localhelp.healthcare.gov (In-person assistance in your community)