Beneficiaries Receive False Warnings in the Mail

Beneficiaries Receive False Warnings in the Mail

Advocates across the state are warning clients to ignore a postcard they may get in the mail, mistakenly informing them of government benefits to be cut.

In large, bold type the postcards claim “proposed cuts to existing government programs include a significant reduction in the federal Medicare program, which may result in an increase in premiums and fees that you must pay … and a decrease in some benefits.”

This is utterly false and only creates unnecessary anxiety and damaging information for beneficiaries. Ken Palinkas, the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) Program Manager in the North Bay has received several phone calls about this mailing and is advising seniors to simply ignore it.

In particular, advocates object to language on the mailings that says Medicare cutbacks mean that “you will become responsible for an even greater portion of your health care expenses … expenses previously paid by Medicare.”

Again, this is a lie. There are no cutbacks happening to Medicare, and in fact, with recent health care reform, Medicare benefits are becoming even more generous. (See our articles, “50% Discount on Part D Brand Name Drugs Starts January 1st” and “Review Upcoming Changes in Medicare Due to Health Care Reform.”)

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) speculates that the cards are likely an attempt by medical insurance companies to obtain names and addresses of potential customers.

Beneficiaries are asked to sign the backs of the cards and mail them back in.

CMS encourages advocates to alert beneficiaries in their areas that these mailings are not legitimate; there’s nothing official from the government or Medicare in them.

If any beneficiaries  have responded to the cards and are contacted by an insurance sales agency, have them contact their local HICAP office at (800) 434-0222, or look up your nearest HICAP office online.

This article was edited from an article in the Times-Herald of Sonoma and Napa counties.

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.