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Beware of the latest Medicare scams

By The Health News Team | September 7, 2023
Junk mail in mailbox

Fall is on its way, 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 from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

During this time, Medicare gives its enrollees an opportunity to change their plans to better suit their needs. For example, enrollees can make prescription changes, income changes or can make choices to help them keep a little more in their wallets during a time when inflation might be felt at the gas pump and in local markets.

Offers to avoid

Companies near and far offer everything from free food to free medicines. And many of the offers received by enrollees in the fall aren’t even valid in San Diego.

The deluge of mail and TV ads can cause anxiety. Every mail offer opened may sound better than the last, and it can become overwhelming.

As the adage says, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” And when it comes to Medicare, that’s very true.

So, while there are many legitimate companies offering services that may provide better health coverage and services, such as dental or fitness plans, seniors may see plenty of other far less-legit offers in their over-stuffed mailboxes.

Here are 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 prescription needed to complete the medication regimen.

Good coordination of your medication regimens is an important benefit of a comprehensive, coordinated Medicare plan. A local, licensed Medicare specialist is a great resource to make sure your prescriptions are covered.

Free Part B.

Part B is never free. Medicare will either bill you and 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. You’ll see the deduction on the top of your Social Security account statement.

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, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. The Medicare general enrollment period, Jan. 1 to Mar. 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.

However, Medicare grades companies on a one-to-five scale, and five-star plans can change plans for enrollees throughout the year within their company.

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.

How to respond to Medicare scams

It’s important to know that Medicare will never call you or contact you through text or email. Scammers using these methods can sometimes become aggressive. They may ask for your identification, including your Social Security number or the Medicare ID number on your Medicare card. Never provide this type of information to anyone asking for it over 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 the Medicare or CMS websites.

Consider a 5-star plan

In 2022, Sharp Health Plan was designated a five-star plan by Medicare, and team members can help enrollees change their plans to enhance Original Medicare coverage. Any changes made during the annual enrollment period will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Consider exploring new plans and what they offer during the Medicare open enrollment period this year. For the best results, always seek the advice of a licensed Medicare agent who is local and experienced.

In San Diego, Sharp HealthCare is committed to helping Medicare recipients. Sharp representatives can connect eligible residents with a qualified Medicare specialist who can guide them through their Medicare choices.

Learn more about Medicare health insurance and health care at Sharp by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Learn how to choose a Medicare plan accepted by Sharp.

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