Medicare Open Enrollment Scams: What to Look Out For!
Medicare Open Enrollment scams are just waiting for the uninformed and unaware. During October, November and December, look out for scammers!
Whether you’re already enrolled in Medicare or will be signing up now or next year, you need to know what type of contact from Medicare and insurance programs are legitimate and what types are not.
A little further down in this article, you’ll see what schemes to look out for. But first, it’s important to cover some of the basics about Medicare.
About Medicare Open Enrollment.
The yearly Medicare open enrollment period takes place from October 15 to December 7. People who are on Medicare can review their Medicare plans and coverage and make changes to their Medicare coverage during which go into effect on January 1st of the following year.
Scammers can’t wait for this open enrollment period because they realize that some, if not many, seniors are confused about Medicare to begin with—especially those who signed up in a hurry the first time.
Medicare basics and the problem. Medicare is confusing to begin with!
It’s confusing because people don’t think about it much until they are required to sign up. Scammers use that to their advantage.
Truth is, it can take time for a senior to get it figured out— most websites that talk about Medicare think everyone already understands it, and that isn’t the case.
And since it is somewhat confusing, scammers prey on that! They are aware that most people, even people eligible for Medicare, are in the dark about how it works.
What is Medicare?
- It is the U.S. government program that offers health insurance primarily to people 65 and older, but other select groups may be eligible as well.
- You have to sign up for Medicare to be part of it—it isn’t automatic. Once signed up, you get a Medicare Card and number.
- Medicare Plan A and Plan B provide most of what people need regarding health care services.
- There is also a Medicare Plan C. It means you can choose an insurance company (like Aetna, Human, Scan) and they will provide health services in Plan A and B. Plan C is called a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Medicare is tied to the Social Security Administration as well, so you’ll have to be signed up for Social Security to get Medicare.
Once a part of Medicare and use it as your health plan, you’ll be allowed to update your plan once a year…during what’s called the Medicare open enrollment period.
That’s what this article is about, because during this time, Medicare Open Enrollment scams are everywhere.
The Do’s and Don’ts During Medicare Open Enrollment.
Here’s what you need to look out for!
- Medicare doesn’t call people during open enrollment. Hang up!
In fact, Medicare representatives do not call people out of the blue at any time. NEVER. Unless you are expecting a call from Medicare (perhaps you left a message), they simply will never call you out of the blue.
- Don’t be fooled or bullied by an open enrollment deadline.
As we said, Medicare can be confusing, but unless you want to make changes to your existing Medicare coverage, there is nothing you need to do. Scammers use open enrollment to pressure people into signing up for different coverages and divulge their Medicare number or other personal information.
- Here’s a good piece of advice for you—review your Medicare plan and service NOW and decide if you want to make changes to your plan.
A scammer may call close to the deadline and trick you into signing up for service you don’t know.
- Trust only insurance companies that you’ve heard of and are well-known. But be aware.
There are many private insurance companies that work with the government to deliver health care services under Medicare (Aetna, Human, United Healthcare, Aflac, etc.). They are trustworthy and legitimate, and they sell Medicare policies. They will fill your mailbox with postcards and letters during open enrollment, and they advertise heavily during open enrollment.
However, they have regulations to follow and cannot reach out to you by phone or text to promote their products and services. If you want to know what they offer, it is up to you to contact them. Even then, they cannot be pushy or pressure you to buy their services or additional products.
If you go to Medicare.gov you’ll see the rules that Medicare plans must follow. Those regulations are there for your protection. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE and file a complaint if you think a provider broke the rules.
- Beware of materials that look like government communications.
Scammers may send promotional letters or brochures that seem to be official government communications. So be on the lookout. How can you tell what’s legitimate? On the Medicare.gov website, you’ll find a list of notifications and messages that Medicare and insurance plans can send out through the mail. Go to Medicare.gov to see that list.
- Ignore random texts, and closely examine emails you receive regarding Medicare.
Medicare is a government healthcare program and they are not in the business of selling products, promoting products, collecting payments or sending threatening communications. Ignore and report any digital communications that claim to be from Medicare but break the above guidelines.
- Protect your Medicare number, Social Security Number and personal information.
Never give it out to anyone randomly or simply because they ask for it. Again, scammers do impersonate Medicare reps, insurance reps and Social Security employees. They want to steal your money, your identity, or bill Medicare for services you’ll never get.
Make your Medicare changes or enrollment decisions before the deadline…and on your own!
Medicare open enrollment scammers use the deadline as a way to pressure you to act. Avoid anyone pressuring you to buy their services.
The U.S Federal Trade Commission warns us every year about Medicare open enrollment scams. Here is a link to their page of information on how to avoid Medicare open enrollment scams.
Part of the advice from the FTC includes the following:
- “Not sure that a call is legitimate? Hang up and call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE.
- “Don’t respond to anyone who seems to be from Medicare and asks for your personal info. They might reach out by phone, mail, email, social media message, or text. They might include the Medicare name.”
- Get help comparing Medicare costs, coverage, and plans from the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) in all U.S. states and territories.
To report someone pretending to be from Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE, then tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
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