Medicare Scams and Open Enrollment
(Note from Art: This is a guest article By Stacy Haberstroh, Licensed Insurance Broker and Geriatric Care Manager at Senior Insurance Concepts.)
It starts in the month of September: You are bombarded with information about “Open Enrollment”. The huge envelopes arrive in the mail from your current company, which many people never read. The “Medicare and You” booklet is stored unopened in a desk drawer. The newspaper is full of advertisements, the television commercials begin, and the phone starts to ring. These are all signs that this thing called “Open Enrollment” has begun. Medicare’s Open Enrollment period for the 2015 plan year runs from October 15,2014 through December 7, 2014.
But what really is Open Enrollment? Well, simply stated, it is time to “Stay” or “Go.” It is that easy: Stay with your current plan or Go to a new plan. The challenge is deciding to stay or to go. If you don’t speak the Medicare language, you are likely overwhelmed with interpreting the information. You can go online at www. Medicare.gov or read the Medicare and You booklet. However, you may experience information overload – the more you gather, the more you become confused. You are not alone.
Unfortunately, this time period brings out scammers as well, trying to steal your money and/or your identity. Here are 4 scams to watch out for and an idea for how to stay safe while you sort through your options:
- Remember, Medicare does not endorse any Insurance company or particular program. If someone tells you, “Medicare wants you to enroll in a plan because it is the best/ highest rated,” that is not true.
- Beware of the phony enrollment. Make sure your agent completes all paperwork in front of you. They are required to leave you a copy or a receipt. Make sure you have a contact phone number and the assigned writing number for the agent. You do have to give lots of personal information, in order to get enrolled or change your Health Insurance, so make sure you feel confident in your agent.
- You can enroll over the phone, but YOU call the insurance company. The numbers for each individual insurance company are located in the back of the Medicare and You booklet. Once you enroll, the insurance company is required to call to verify your intent to enroll. They try calling you up to three times. If they are unable to reach you they will send a letter.
- Watch out for “freebie scams:” Scammers can call and tell you about getting free medical supplies (especially diabetic supplies) or a free check-up, and will sometimes even know something about your health condition. Most of the time these are nothing more than attempts to get your personal information or subject you to a high-pressure sales pitch. There are legitimate offers for health screenings, but always check them out first. Remember the 3rd R of scam prevention: Reach out to check it out.
What’s the solution? Find a licensed Insurance Broker who:
- Speaks the “Medicare language.” Ask about their years of experience.
- Has been certified to enroll you in a particular health plan. You can ask for a copy of their current license and certificate.
- Has completed 10-15 hours of training each year (at their own expense). The health care company is obligated to train the Insurance Brokers, according to CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) regulations. It is a prerequisite to finish on-line accreditations and attend seminars as well as perform mock presentations. Ask for copies of their accreditations.
When choosing your Insurance Broker, make sure they are knowledgeable and can compare the different plans. If they scare you or pressure you to make a decision – show them to the door. You want to work with a respectable, educated, and certified Insurance Broker. Once you find him or her, hold on to them and tell all of your friends. Remember, friends don’t let friends go through Open Enrollment alone.
(If you have a question or would like to contact Stacy Haberstroh, reach her at either 314-517-4073 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
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