It’s officially fall, which means if you’re on Medicare, this is the time of year when your mailbox fills up with all sorts of offers. That’s because the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period runs October 15 through December 7.
Companies near and far offer everything from free food to free medicines to the man in the moon. Every mail offer you open may sound better than the last one and it can be overwhelming. As the old adage says, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” And when it comes to Medicare, that is very true.
During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, enrollees review and change their Medicare coverage to better suit their present needs. There are many legitimate companies offering services that might be interesting and bring better health coverage, such as dental or fitness plans. Reducing the cost of coverage, changes in residency and changes in prescription medications are just a few reasons why it’s always important to review your coverage during this time.
So much of the mail we receive right now isn’t even applicable to San Diego, and the deluge of mail and TV ads can cause anxiety in some older adults. It takes a lot of work to correct enrollment mistakes made because of misleading promotions.
Let’s take a closer look at what many might be seeing in their over-stuffed mailbox. Here’s just a few of the “freebies” to watch for:
- Free transportation. There are plans that offer free transportation, but you must qualify for the program based on age, disability or income.
- Free food. Once again, these programs are limited to those who qualify by income, disability and program requirements.
- Free medical supplies. Usually the “catch” to these plans is that they may cover one prescription for a certain disease but not another needed prescription to complete the medication regimen. This is one benefit of a comprehensive, coordinated Medicare plan.
- Free Part B. Part B is never free. Medicare will either bill you or set up a payment plan for Part B or, if you are receiving Social Security, they will deduct it from your monthly Social Security check.
- Free to change your plan at any time. Medicare has certain periods during the year when an enrollee can change their plan. The most important and popular period is the annual Open Enrollment Period, October 15 through December 7. During this time, you can change and upgrade your plan to better suit your needs and improve your coverage. The Medicare General Enrollment Period — January 1 to March 31 — is for Medicare beneficiaries to correct mistakes of choice made during the annual Open Enrollment Period, and not everyone is qualified to change plans during general enrollment.
- You are entitled to a refund. Medicare does not offer refunds. If there is a change in your Medicare Part B premium, you will receive a letter from Medicare or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). If there is a reduction in your premium for some reason, they will adjust it the following month and you will be advised either on your statement or through the mail only.
Medicare scams don’t just show up in your mailbox. It’s important to know that Medicare will never call you or contact you through text or email. Scams using these methods can sometimes become aggressive. They may ask for your identification, including but not limited to your Social Security number or the Medicare ID number on your Medicare card. Never provide anyone asking for this type of information on the phone or by email or text.
If you receive a traceable scam through one of these methods, you can report it to Medicare by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). For articles and tips on recognizing and combating Medicare scams, visit medicare.gov and cms.gov.
The Medicare Open Enrollment Period is a great time to read and review your present plan and to research what’s new in plan offerings that can reduce your premiums and expand your coverage and services. For the best results, always seek the advice of a licensed Medicare agent who is local and experienced.
Sharp HealthCare is committed to helping San Diego Medicare recipients. We can connect you with a qualified Medicare specialist who can guide you through your Medicare choices. For all of your needs and questions about your health care and Medicare, please contact 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277).