As Medicare Annual Enrollment 2014 nears, Obamacare benefits confuse seniors.

Wondering how the new health care law affects your Medicare benefits? In a word, not-at-all. However, Medicare recipients should continue to watch cost-cutting trends. That’s good news for seniors buying Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D prescription-drug plans. Premiums will remain low in 2014.  However, let’s clear up some common confusion.

Throughout the year we receive dozens of questions from seniors, like:

  1. Can I buy my insurance through the Obamacare exchange?
  2. Is open enrollment for Medicare the same as the state health exchanges?
  3. Can I get a health insurance subsidy to help pay for my Medicare Part D or my Medigap coverage if I meet the Obamacare income requirements?

The answer to all of these questions is “no”.  The new healthcare law does not change anything about open enrollment for Medicare Part D (prescription drug plans) or Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO health insurance.  The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is still 15 October through 7 December, and nothing has changed in regards to subsidies.  The Medicare Extra Help program is still available and is not changed by the ACA.

The good news is that Medicare Advantage and Part D plan quality continues to improves, and Medicare reports that 2014 Medicare Advantage plans will only slightly increase ($31 per month, on average, up from $30).  The same is not true of Medicare Supplements (aka, Medigap).  Supplemental health insurance policies for seniors have spiked dramatically this year, a trend that is likely to continue.

Even though monthly premiums may remain the same, expect heftier co-payments, shrinking pharmacy networks, extra discounts for preferred pharmacies and modifications in drug tiers (formularies) that will increase out-of-pocket costs. More than ever, 2014 is the year to carefully investigate how plans in your area cover you when you need to see the doctor or have  your prescriptions filled.

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