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What This Year’s Health Insurance Open Enrollment Season Means for You

Sign-up periods for Medicare, employer-plans and the new insurance marketplace are happening at the same time. Which, if any, requires your attention?

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Do I have to stick with a health plan offered by my employer?

You might have choices. You can renew or change your coverage during your employer's annual open enrollment period. Or if your employer does not offer good insurance — "good" meaning that a plan doesn't cost more than 9.5 percent of your income and pays at least 60 percent of your covered medical expenses — you could shop for coverage through the marketplace, and you might qualify for financial help.

What if I miss my employer's open enrollment deadline?

You'll likely have to wait a year to enroll in the employer-sponsored plan or make changes in your coverage. But if you have a qualifying "life event," you may be able to change your coverage sooner.

I have Medicare. Do I do anything differently?

Medicare isn't part of the marketplace, and Medicare plans aren't offered through the marketplace. If you're already receiving Medicare benefits, you're covered.

When will I be notified of changes in Medicare plans for 2014?

Cost and benefit details of the Part D and Medicare Advantage plans available in 2014 will be posted online by Oct. 15. By late September, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) document that details any changes in your plan's premiums, copays, deductibles and coverage. It's important to look at these changes and avoid unwelcome surprises when they become effective Jan. 1.

What if I want to change options for my Medicare coverage?

The annual Medicare open enrollment period (pdf) of Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 is the time to do it. If you don't want to change anything, you don't need do anything — your current coverage will continue next year.

How can I find out more about what the health care law means for me?

To learn more about the marketplace and the health care law's benefits and protections, visit www.HealthLawAnswers.org or its Spanish-language counterpart, www.MiLeyDeSalud.org.

Alan Green is a freelance writer.

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HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGES: How does the marketplace work and how much does it cost?

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