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Sharp Health News

Beware of the latest Medicare scams

Sept. 27, 2022

Junk mail in mailbox

Fall is here, which means if you’re a Medicare enrollee, 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 Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 each year.

During annual open enrollment, Medicare gives its enrollees an opportunity to change their plans to better suit their needs. For example, you may have prescription changes, income changes or simply want to keep a little more in your wallet due to the inflation currently felt at the gas pump and in your local market.

Offers to avoid
Companies near and far offer everything from free food to free medicines. However, many offers received by members in the fall aren’t applicable to those living in San Diego. And the deluge of mail and TV ads can cause anxiety. Every mail offer you open may sound better than the last and it can be overwhelming.

As the adage says, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” When it comes to Medicare scams, that can certainly be true. Here are just a few of the “freebies” and frauds to watch for:

  • Free food or transportation. There are plans that offer free food or transportation, but these programs are limited to those who qualify based on very specific income, disability and other requirements. Always make sure you qualify for a plan before purchasing.
     
  • Free medication. 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. Coordination of your medication regimens is an important benefit of a comprehensive Medicare plan. Talk with a local, licensed Medicare specialist to make sure all your prescriptions are covered.
     
  • Free Part B. Medicare Part B, which covers costs for doctors’ services, outpatient care and medical equipment, is never free. Medicare will bill you or set up an automatic deduction from your savings or checking account for your Part B coverage. Or, if you are receiving Social Security benefits, 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. There are certain periods during the year when an enrollee can change their plan and choose legitimate companies offering services that may provide better health coverage and services, such as dental or fitness plans. Medicare plans are rated on a scale of one to five stars, where one star indicates poor performance, and five stars indicates excellent performance. Five-star plans, such as Sharp Health Plan, can help enrollees change their plans to enhance their Original Medicare coverage throughout the year.

    The most important period to make choices or changes is the annual open enrollment period, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. The Medicare general enrollment period — Jan. 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. Any changes made during the annual enrollment period will go into effect on Jan. 1 of the following year.
     
  • 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 via your statement or through the mail.

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 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). You can also find information and tips on recognizing and combating Medicare scams by visiting the Medicare or CMS websites.

Learn how to choose a Medicare plan accepted by Sharp.

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