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What You Need to Know About This Year's Medicare Open Enrollment Period

If you have Medicare, you don't need to participate in the new health insurance marketplace

Q: I’ve just become eligible for Medicare, but I haven’t signed up yet and haven’t started collecting Social Security. Can I choose coverage on the marketplace instead of Medicare?

A: Yes, but be aware that if you fail to sign up for Medicare during your initial seven-month enrollment period — the three months before the month you turn 65, your birthday month and three months after your 65th birthday — you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare. Also, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you can sign up only during what’s called the general enrollment period — Jan. 1 through March 31 — and your coverage won’t begin until July of that year.

Q: I’ll turn 65 next year and will become eligible for Medicare, but I don’t have health insurance now. Can I use the marketplace?

A: Yes, you’re uninsured and can buy a plan on the marketplace now that will be effective Jan. 1. Once you receive Medicare coverage, you should cancel the marketplace plan.

Q: I’m 65, a legal immigrant with a green card and have lived in this country for three years. Can I get Medicare coverage?

A: No, Medicare requires that you have lived in the United States continuously for five years. You may qualify for a health insurance plan on the marketplace, which does not have a residency waiting period.

Q: I’m 65 and Medicare-eligible, but I’m still working and covered by my employer’s health plan. My employer says she may terminate the company plan next year. What are my options?

A: If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part A or Part B when you were first eligible because you were covered by a group plan based on current employment — yours or a spouse’s — you can sign up for Part A or Part B (or both) anytime you’re still covered by the group plan or during an eight-month period that begins the month after your coverage ends.

Q: I’m eligible for Medicare but didn’t sign up on time, and I haven’t bought insurance through the marketplace. Will I have to pay a fine?

A: Yes, if you’re uninsured and don’t qualify for an exemption to the requirement that everyone carry health insurance in 2014, you will have to pay a penalty. Exemptions include being a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe or having income too low to file a tax return.

Q: I have only Medicare Part A. Do I need to buy more insurance to meet the legal requirement that I have insurance?

A: No, whether you’re in a traditional Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you meet the insurance requirement.

Q: I’m 60 and retired, but I’m too young for Medicare. I get my insurance through my former employer’s retiree health plan. Do I need to get additional coverage on the marketplace to comply with the health law?

A: No, retiree plans generally meet the requirement.

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