Medicare Open Enrollment – Making Good Choices

Medicare Open Enrollment – Making Good Choices

Have you received a letter in the mail telling you that there’s a new law requiring you to get a new health care card? Or maybe a call offering you big discounts on a new health insurance plan? Or did someone come to your home saying they’re from Medicare, and they need your Medicare number to issue you a new card? If so, beware of these common scam tactics.

Scammers follow the headlines. And there are many Medicare headlines and new information being sent to beneficiaries during Medicare open enrollment (Oct 15 – Dec 7). Open enrollment is the time each year where beneficiaries can review their current coverage and plan changes for the coming year and make a change. Beneficiaries can switch their Medicare Advantage plan and/or Part D coverage, and/or return to Original Medicare. So much information and choices for beneficiaries creates a ripe environment for confusion. And confusion is the perfect growing environment for fraud and scams. This means that if you have Medicare, you need to keep an eye out for people trying to rip you off. Crooks are out trying to get your Medicare number, financial information or health insurance number to steal your identity or trick you into buying something you don’t need. And some “bad apple” insurance agents may try to sell you a Medicare plan that makes them money and cheats you out of benefits you really need.

Don’t let anyone trick you into making a bad decision. Take the time every year for a “check-up” on your Medicare choices during Open Enrollment. You can call your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) to review and understand your choices at 1-800-434-0222. HICAP offers free, individual, unbiased counseling on Medicare and other health insurance related issues. Also, if you come across any such scams, report them to our California Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-855-613-7080. Make sure you talk with your health care provider before making changes as well.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Plan

1. The type of coverage you need. Does the plan let you see the doctors you want and go to the hospital you want? Does the drug plan cover the medicines you now take?

2. The cost of the plan. Prices are different. Compare costs. Find out if you can get help paying for the plan if you have a low income through the Part D Extra Help program

3. The location. Can you go to the pharmacy you like? Is it close to your home?

You are not alone. Get help from family, from the Medicare website or from your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP).

How to Protect Yourself during Open Season

Remember: if someone approaches you with a “deal”, take a minute to stop and think: Do you really have to get a new health care card? Is that cheap insurance a good deal? Is that “government official” really from the government? The answer to all three is almost always: No.

Don’t let someone push you to make a decision right away. Take your time. Before you share your information, ask people you trust for help. Talk to your friends and family, check with your doctor, and do some research. Call your HICAP at 1-800-434-0222 for a source of reliable, unbiased information on your plan and coverage choices and rights, and call your California Senior Medicare Patrol at 855-613-7080 to report fraud concerns or any bad agents. HICAP and SMP empower beneficiaries to make good choices and help protect elders and communities from Medicare fraud.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.