Conversion to Medicare can be seamless

If someone is enrolled in a health plan (this can be a Marketplace plan through the Affordable Care Act, a private health insurance plan or an employer plan), when they become eligible for Medicare at 65 the plan they were in can seamlessly enroll them into one of their Medicare Advantage plans, if they have one. (A Medicare Advantage plan is one policy that covers Medicare Hospital Coverage A, Outpatient Medical Coverage B and Prescription Coverage D and sometimes vision or dental).

Some people have health plans that have approval to “seamlessly convert” members to a Medicare Advantage plan without the member calling or signing up. The process requires the insurer to send a letter explaining the new coverage which takes effect unless the member opts out within 60 days.

This should not be a problem for Alaskans turning 65 – there are no Medicare Advantage plans operating in Alaska. So this “seamless conversion” should not impact Alaskans who reside in Alaska (meaning their address according to Social Security is in Alaska). Since there are no Medicare Advantage plans here in Alaska there are none to be automatically enrolled into.

The bad news is that limited options for both Medicare Supplements and Prescription coverage (aka Medicare Part D) often means higher health insurance costs in Alaska than elsewhere. That is a reflection of the costs of doing business and getting services and supplies in Alaska.

Auto-enrollment into any type of insurance is helpful to some people who would otherwise go completely uncovered because they ignore their mail or cannot read or understand the complex language of insurance.

But auto-enrollment into insurance for others is a nightmare because they didn’t participate in making a decision about their own health care coverage, didn’t read or understand that it was going to occur and didn’t provide active consent.

Whether you receive confusing mail from an insurance company, an investment firm, your former employer or credit card company, it’s a good policy to pick up the phone and check your understanding of what the company is communicating to you. Take notes on the letter recording the name, date and time you spoke to the company as supporting documentation.

Make sure you read everything that is addressed to you in the mail, even if you don’t know the company. If you get bills, do not simply toss them. Find out what/if you really are financially responsible.

Judith Bendersky, MPH Gerontologist, is the Alaska Medicare Information Office manager.

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