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Medicare education can save headaches

With key provisions of the Affordable Care Act set to go into effect on Jan. 1, the news is full of more health care and insurance jargon than ever: Health insurance marketplaces. Premium subsidies. Essential health benefits.

All of this buzz can make it difficult for the nearly 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the Fort Wayne area to cut through the clutter and find the information they need about their Medicare options for 2014.

That may help explain why the Medicare Made Clear Index, a survey of 1,000 older adults conducted earlier this year, found that most beneficiaries’ understanding of Medicare is limited. Baby boomers in their early 60s, who are approaching Medicare eligibility and may be a caregiver for a parent or loved one who receives Medicare benefits, reported the lowest confidence levels in their Medicare knowledge of all survey participants, with most saying they have a “fair” or “poor” understanding of the program.

This is concerning because Medicare is not a one-size-fits-all program, and coverage decisions can have a significant effect on beneficiaries’ health – and wallets. Whether you’re a baby boomer preparing to enroll in Medicare for the first time, a beneficiary considering making a change to your coverage, or a caregiver for someone who receives Medicare benefits, you should know that these decisions require thoughtful planning. The good news: They don’t have to be a struggle.

That’s why I encourage people to participate in National Medicare Education Week (Sept. 15-22).

The goal of National Medicare Education Week is to help people learn more about Medicare so they can find coverage that’s a good fit for their individual needs. It starts one month before Medicare’s annual open enrollment period (Oct. 15-Dec. 7) when beneficiaries can make changes to their coverage. By taking time to learn about Medicare now, people may feel better prepared to make confident coverage decisions during open enrollment.

Fort Wayne-area residents can participate in National Medicare Education Week in a variety of ways. Visit NMEW.com to find information about educational events taking place in the area and in cities across the country. If you’re not able to attend an event, you can participate virtually and also find a variety of free resources to help you learn more about Medicare at NMEW.com.

Donna Craig is regional vice president of United Healthcare Medicare & Retirement in Fort Wayne. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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