Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Common questions about Medicare and health care exchanges


We've been getting a lot of questions about whether the new health care exchanges affect people on Medicare.

The short answer is no. If you have health coverage through Medicare, you don't need to do anything. It will not affect your coverage.

Among the other questions we're hearing frequently:

Do I need to re-enroll in my Medicare plan through the new health insurance Exchange?

Nope. Medicare's open enrollment is not part of the Exchange. If you are on Medicare, do not sign up for a plan in the Exchange.

Will I lose my Medicare coverage due to health reform and the Exchange?

No. Health care reform and the Exchange do not affect your Medicare coverage. You still have the same benefits and security you have now with Medicare.

Will people on Medicare be fined for not buying a health insurance Exchange plan?

No. In fact, it's against the law for someone who knows you have Medicare to sell you an Exchange plan.

Can I go to the Exchange and get a subsidy to help pay for my Medicare coverage?

Sorry, but no. If you're on Medicare, you're not eligible for the subsidies, which are for people buying coverage through the Exchanges.

For more questions -- including how the Exchange and Medicare work for recent immigrants, for those about to turn 65, etc. -- please see our new "popular questions about Medicare and the Exchange" web page.

Changes mean quicker responses to your insurance complaints

We've launched a new complaint response system that's speeding up the time between consumer insurance complaints and resolutions.

As Washington state's insurance regulatory agency and an advocate for consumers, we help with thousands of consumer complaints each year. Typical complaints involve wrongly denied claims, delayed payments and cancelled coverage.

The new online system, which is a secure link between our office and insurance companies we regulate, allows us to quickly get those complaints (along with our questions or concerns) to insurers. They'll look into the case and often reconsider their initial decision.

For years, largely in the interest of protecting complainants' private information, this process was handled by mail. Insurance companies were allowed 30 calendar days to respond to a complaint. 

The new online system is also secure -- and it's dramatically faster. Now insurers must respond electronically within 15 business days.

In other words, we've cut the time to process consumer complaints against insurers by more than 25 percent.

Got a complaint about your insurer? You can file a complaint online or call our Consumer Hotline 1-800-562-6900.