“Obamacare” Should Be of No Concern to Medicare Beneficiaries, Although Scammers May Tell You Otherwise
Starting October 1, 2013, people who lack health insurance can start signing up for coverage through the new Internet-based health insurance marketplaces set
up under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Most of those who
don’t already have insurance will have to buy coverage by March 31, 2014
or pay a penalty.
But if you already have Medicare, you have nothing to worry
about. You have coverage that will continue as before (better than
before, in fact) and you don’t need to do anything. Any stranger who
tries to tell you otherwise is likely trying to steal your personal
It’s all somewhat confusing because Medicare’s enrollment period for
choosing or changing prescription drug or Medicare Advantage plans
begins October 15 and ends December 7, overlapping with the Affordable
Care Act’s enrollment period. Scammers are taking advantage of the
confusiion to steal personal and financial information from Medicare
recipients and others.
Some con artists, claiming to be from Medicare, are calling
Medicare beneficiaries and telling them that because of Obamacare they
need to get “a new Medicare card,” which requires them to divulge
personal and banking information. If they don’t provide the
information, the beneficiaries are told, their Medicare benefits will
In point of fact, people age 65 and over who are on Medicare
don’t need to do anything to continue getting their government benefits.
Medicare coverage satisfies the new insurance requirement and a new
“health care card” is not required. (And those under age 65 who already
have health coverage don’t need to do anything, either.) Moreover,
Medicare, like the IRS, will never contact beneficaires about any personal issues by phone or e-mail, but rather through regular mail.
“We want to protect Medicare beneficiaries and remind them
their benefits aren’t changing, and the marketplace doesn’t require them
to do anything differently,” a Medicare spokesman said.
It’s also against the law for someone who knows that you have
Medicare to sell you a marketplace (also called an “exchange”) plan.
Anyone who violates the law can be fined up to $25,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both.
If you receive a suspicious call, contact the Senior Medicare Patrol in your state.
Medicare coverage will actually improve for many
beneficiaries as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Those receiving
prescription drug coverage and stuck in the coverage gap known as the
"doughnut hole" will get a 50 percent discount on brand-name
prescription drugs covered under Medicare Part D. And health reform
added some free preventive services to Medicare.
And the new health care marketplaces should be a big boon to
the near-elderly — those ages 50 to 64 — one-fifth of whom went
without health insurance for at least part of 2012. These individuals
can sign up for coverage through the marketplaces without fear of being
rejected for preexisting conditions, and the insurance should be more
affordable than before. Many others in this age group are
clinging to their jobs simply for the health insurance. The
availability of affordable, guaranteed health coverage could allow them
to start their own business, change employers, or retire.