Medicare’s annual enrollment period is one of the most popular times of the year for health care scams. We are breaking down some scams and what you need to know.
AARP estimates that nearly 64 million beneficiaries are under attack from an army of scammers eager to defraud Medicare, which costs the program billions of dollars annually. With these scams on the rise, the Better Business Bureau warns all seniors to be extra vigilant when answering the door, emails, and especially phone calls from strangers. Medicare’s annual enrollment period runs from October 15 to December 7.
Medicare fraud can result in higher healthcare costs and increased taxes for everyone. Sadly, it’s a problem that is unlikely to go away. But that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself as best as you can. There are things you can do to fight back against scammers to protect your identity and your money.
What to Look For When it Comes to Identifying a Scam
One of the most common ways scammers try to get to you is by calling you. They will claim many things, such as being a Medicare representative who will promise you a better plan than your current one. Some will even promise you things that turn out not to be true. Here are some examples:
Better coverage. They promise extra benefits like vision, dental, and hearing will be included in basic coverage. Unfortunately, if you want more than a tooth cleaning and an eye exam, you’ll need to pay the monthly premium for the comprehensive covered services, like dental fillings and glasses.
Better products. They promise you free state-of-the-art braces to relieve joint pain. Yet, when consumers receive their package, inside they find ordinary ankle or knee wraps (sometimes nothing at all) and will send Medicare a bill for thousands of dollars. When was the last time an insurance company gave you anything for free? Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Pay attention to how the caller sounds and what they are promising. If the caller seems overly urgent, threatens to cancel your plan, or pushes you for highly-sensitive personal information or payment, it’s likely a scam. If the caller has a heavy foreign accent and broken English, it’s likely a scam. If the caller contacts you out of the blue, claiming your Medicare plan needs immediate attention, it’s likely a scam.
What About Those Commercials with Famous People?
We’ve seen hundreds of these commercials, especially when it comes time for Open Enrollment. The commercials promise you hearing and dental coverage, and some even promise to drive you back and forth to your doctor’s appointments. The problem is they aren’t telling you the entire story, and many important pieces of information are left off these commercials.
Consumers may call the number on the TV, opt for a Medicare Advantage plan, and have no clue what they are getting into. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2022, the average Medicare beneficiary had a choice of 54 Medicare plans, 766 Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, and a record 3,834 Medicare Advantage plans. That’s a lot to choose from, and there is so much information you need to know before you enroll in a plan. A MedicareAdvantage.com survey found that of over 1,000 beneficiaries, three out of four called Medicare “confusing and difficult to understand.”
How to Protect Yourself from a Medicare Scam
First, be skeptical. These scammers are professionals who will do whatever it takes to get your information. They sound confident, knowledgeable, and empathetic to your needs. If you sense something is off, trust your gut. If you have any doubt, hang up the phone. Remember, a true Medicare representative or licensed independent insurance agent must follow strict guidelines when speaking with a Medicare participant.
Keep Your Personal Information Close
It’s crucial to treat your Medicare ID as you do your social security number, and don’t ever give it out! In reality, no one should have this information aside from your healthcare provider, a trusted health insurance agent, and less than a handful of other agencies/professionals.
You can also block scammers. First, register your number with the National Do Not Call Registry. It is free to register your home or mobile phone. While this registry typically blocks telemarketing and robocalls, there have been cases of blocked fraudulent calls. It is getting harder to block calls, but taking the necessary steps is still a good idea. Another way to protect yourself is by not answering calls from a number you don’t recognize, even if the number matches your area code. You can even use an app like RoboKiller, which is an app that will screen calls and will send unauthorized numbers to your voicemail.
Report Medicare Scams and Use a Trusted Agent
If you suspect you’re the victim of a Medicare scam or if you think someone else is fraudulently using your Medicare card/ID, you will want to talk with someone you trust, and someone who you know can help. That’s where I come in. I will sit down with you and review your Medicare options. I have years of experience and can help determine the best plan. Please remember that scammers are very professional and will do everything possible to get to you.