Medicare Open Enrollment

Parts A and D. Medicare Advantage. The 7-month IEP. Medigap.

Do you find the Medicare terms, parameters, and sign-up dates ridiculously complex?

You’re not alone.

Since the Medicare enrollment period—starting October 15 and running through December 7—is about to begin, now is the time to familiarize yourself with Medicare basics, especially if you’re a new enrollee.

And if you’re already enrolled, now is the time to review your choices and make changes to your health and prescription drug plans.

With Medicare, timing is critical, yet figuring out the correct dates can be daunting. The National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment has a terrific at-a-glance chart that gives you the key enrollment dates and essentials. See it here: http://www.ncoa.org/assets/files/doc/center-for-benefits/Enrollment-calendar-11×8.docx .

When you are ready for the nitty-gritty program details, see Medicare’s 2014 guide, www.medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10050.pdf.

Used car smarts

When you’re buying a used car, you want to know as much as you can about a car’s history and maintenance. And when you’re selling a car on your own, you want every marketing edge possible.

The United States Department of Energy’s tool, the Used Car Label Tool, http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/UsedCarLabel.jsp, is useful both buyers and sellers of used cars.

The widget quickly calculates gas mileage and the CO2 emissions of various cars. It also lets you print a sticker with the information.

Another benefit is that it speeds up the research process, especially for those who now are paying greater attention to gas mileage and cars’ impact on the environment.

Sure, you know that a hybrid is better for the environment and runs on less fuel than a truck, but it’s tough to detect the subtle differences between two very similar cars.

So if you’re selling a car, use the tool to print data about the car’s environmental impact and include it in marketing materials -–window decals, ads, posters – to make it easier for potential buyers to make a decision. And if you’re buying a car, tap the site as a research tool.

It’s so much better than relying on a car window sign that reads, “runs good.”

Reversing course

If you’re considering a reverse mortgage and you’ve been crunching numbers, it’s time to take a second look at your options before finalizing your plans.

Reverse mortgages allow those over the age of 62 to tap the equity in their houses and turn it into cash for living expenses, medical care, home improvement projects, and so forth.

At the beginning of October, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development tightened its restrictions on reverse mortgages.

What could mean to you? It’s possible that getting a reverse mortgage will be more difficult and you might not be able to get as much cash out of your house as you’d anticipated.

Each person’s financial situation is different, so there’s no hard rule to offer for that will help you with your calculations.

So before cementing your financial plans, get in touch with your financial advisor to be certain that you’re making decisions that are based on up-to-date lending guidelines.

Opportunities flourish for scammers

The doors have swung open for Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act — frequently referred to as Obamacare – health care enrollment. That means the environment is ripe for clever scam artists who flourish when people are confused.

You’ve heard it before, but a reminder about health care scams bears repeating.

Representatives from the Federal government or state health care exchanges do not contact you with hard-sell tactics and demand your private information, such as bank or Social Security numbers.

In fact, if you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, you don’t need to pay attention to the new health care law.

For more on the latest scams and what to do if you’re a target, see:

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