Open enrollment for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage is in full swing, and that means the scammers are as well. From now through Dec. 7, many Medicare recipients will be making decisions on whether to make changes in their Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans. Affecting more than 4 million Texas Medicare beneficiaries, the annual open enrollment enables recipients to make the following changes to various aspects of their coverage. They can:
— Switch from original Medicare to Medicare Advantage or vice versa.
— Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another, or from one Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan to another.
— Enroll in a Medicare Part D plan if you did not do so when you were first eligible, although a late enrollment penalty may apply.
As much personal information will be disclosed during this type of change, the Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to be watchful for scammers who will try to take advantage of unsuspecting Medicare recipients.
All of the advertising and solicitations during Medicare open enrollment can confuse even the most intelligent person. That’s why it’s important to make sure you are working with trustworthy companies when considering enrollment options.
The BBB offers the following ways to avoid Medicare fraud:
Shop around. Ensure you are getting the plan that best meets your needs for the best price. Shop and compare plans at www.medicare.gov. You can also contact the State Health Insurance Program at 900-252-9240.
Guard your Medicare number. Your number is unique to you, just like your Social Security number. It should not be shared under any circumstances, unless you know exactly where it is going and who is using it. Protect your number the same way you would protect your bank and credit card information. If someone tries to convince you to give up your Medicare number, just hang up the phone.
Verify licensing. The Medicare-eligible population grows every year, making sales of Medicare plans big business. Independent agents and brokers selling plans must be licensed, and the plan must tell the state which agents are selling plans on the company’s behalf. Before any decisions are made, verify the agent has proper credentials with a known company. Start with trust at bbb.org for information about a business, or contact the Texas Department of Insurance at tdi.texas.gov.
Dodge phony pitches. Phone calls, door-to-door, phishing emails, mail offers, health fairs, dinners, contests or prizes have all been used to lure people who may be pressed for time or confused by their Medicare options.
Hang up if:
— You receive a cold call. No health care is allowed to cold call.
— The caller uses high-pressure sales or offers for “early bird discounts” during open enrollment for lower monthly premiums. Remember, you have until Dec. 7 to make your decision.
— The caller offers a “special plan made just for you.”
— The caller asks for personal information upfront before you are enrolled.
— Claims there is a problem with your plan or there is a new card for your plan and updated information is needed.
— If the caller asks for payment over the phone.
Medicare is a federal government program managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which means there are strict rules on forbidden sales practices. Medicare is not part of healthcare.gov.
For additional resources, contact the Texas Health and Human Services at 855-937-2372 and Texas Senior Medicare Patrol at 888-341-6187.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer or to share your experience with a business, go to bbb.org. To report a fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or report it via BBB Scam Tracker.