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Medicare Beneficiaries Have Special Options in December


TALLAHASSEE-Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher today announced that during the month of December Floridians enrolled in a Medicare HMO (Medicare + Choice) plan who wish to drop their policy and re-enroll in traditional Medicare are guaranteed the option to purchase a Medicare Supplement plan. His announcement follows an update from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Medicare Supplement or Medigap plans are health insurance policies, sold by private insurance companies, which can serve to fill in the "gaps" in the coverage provided by Medicare, such as deductibles. Normally, consumers must have recently turned 65 or be dropped by their Medicare + Choice carrier to qualify for a guaranteed issue Medigap policy.

To be eligible, consumers must cancel their Medicare + Choice plan by Dec. 31, 2001, and purchase a Medigap policy by March 4, 2002. Consumers can make this change by sending a written request to their Medicare + Choice carrier, calling 1-800-MEDICARE, or visiting their local social security office.

The CMS notice also extends the time period beneficiaries have to decide whether they want to remain in a Medicare + Choice plan or return to the standard Medicare plan. Beneficiaries normally have from Nov. 1-Nov. 30, however, this year consumers will have until Dec. 31.

Consumers who may have cancelled their Medicare HMO policies in November must not begin receiving traditional Medicare coverage until Jan. 1, 2002, in order to be eligible to buy a guaranteed issue Medigap policies. These consumers should contact their Medicare + Choice carrier as soon as possible to move their disenrollment dates to December. If a Medicare + Choice plan was cancelled in November, and traditional Medicare coverage began Dec. 1, 2001, affected consumers will not be eligible. For more information, call the Department of Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders), Department of Elder Affairs at 1-800-963-5337.