Submitted by the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York
Medicare open enrollment season is here and, while it's hard to miss the advertising, those who may be looking to make a change could be misled or even taken advantage of. In New York, more than 3 million Medicare beneficiaries have the chance to change their Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans until Dec. 7.
"Sifting through plan options is challenging. Adding in all of the advertising and solicitations can confuse even the smartest person," said Warren Clark, president of BBB of Upstate New York. "Whether it's TV or radio advertising, brochures, email, mail or phone calls, we know it can be confusing. People may not know what they can trust. BBB is here and ready to help."
Medicare open enrollment is for anyone who wants to make an adjustment to a plan, not just for those who are eligible for the first time. BBB knows scammers try to take advantage of unsuspecting Medicare recipients. It's important for anyone, whether helping a parent to enroll or considering personal enrollment options, to work with trustworthy companies and support services.
Some people reported to BBB they were contacted by someone claiming to be from a doctor's office or a state or local health agency. Confusion can arise since scammers use official-sounding names and have enough details regarding personal situations that can lead people to share more personal information.
"If someone tries to convince you to give up your Medicare number, just hang up the phone," Clark said.
BBB offers three ways to take to avoid Medicare fraud, as well as common Medicare scams:
•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.
•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 in New York state 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 state's Department of Finance licensing bureau at [email protected] or call 800-342-3736.
•Dodge phony pitches. Phone calls, door-to-door, phishing emails, mail offers, health fairs, contests or prizes have all been used to lure people who may be pressed for time or confused by their Medicare options.
Tactics to avoid:
High-pressure sales or offers for "early-bird discounts" during open enrollment for lower monthly premiums;
An offer for a "special plan made just for you";
Salespeople who ask 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; and/or
Asks for payment over the phone since plans must send you an actual bill.
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 real-time scam information, check out BBB's Scam Tracker. For consumer tips and other "information you can trust" follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for business reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and charity reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.