As the Medicare Open Enrollment period approaches, the New York StateWide Senior Action Council (StateWide) is on a mission to protect seniors from potential scams. The organization, dedicated to advocating for the rights of seniors in New York State, has named “Medicare Open Enrollment Scams” as their October Medicare Fraud of the Month.
StateWide plays a crucial role as the administrator for the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), offering invaluable resources to senior citizens and caregivers across New York State. The SMP is designed to empower individuals to detect, prevent, and report healthcare fraud, errors, and abuse.
Maria Alvarez, the Executive Director of StateWide, delivered a timely warning: “Watch out for scams during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period as you look for your best health coverage options; don’t forget to keep an eye open for fraudsters! Open Enrollment can quickly become an ‘Open Season’ for scammers.”
Medicare Open Enrollment is an annual opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate and make changes to their health and prescription drug plans, ensuring their coverage aligns with their healthcare needs and budget. This period runs from October 15th to December 7th, with any changes taking effect on January 1st of the following year.
During this time, beneficiaries can make various changes to their coverage, including altering their drug coverage or transitioning in or out of a Medicare Advantage plan. For those with retiree coverage from a former employer, it is vital to consult with their benefits administrator before making any changes.
Alvarez provides valuable advice to seniors, cautioning them against typical Medicare Enrollment Scams:
- Be wary of individuals who claim to work with Medicare, presenting themselves as “official Medicare agents” or “representatives of Medicare.” Medicare does not employ representatives, and Medicare will never cold-call you.
- Remember that joining a Medicare prescription plan (Part D) is entirely voluntary; no one can force you to join.
- Never share personal information like your Medicare number, Social Security number, or bank details with anyone.
- Don’t be pressured or threatened into enrolling in a particular plan. You have the entire Open Enrollment Period to decide on the best plan for your needs.
- Reject any offers of gifts in exchange for enrolling in a plan, as this practice is illegal.
“If you suspect your Medicare number or Social Security Number has been compromised, think you’ve been enrolled in a plan without your permission, or if you have any questions about Medicare fraud and what coverage is best for your needs, reach out to StateWide’s certified counselors today. Call 800-333-4374 for free. We will help ensure you have the coverage that best fits your healthcare needs and approach the New Year with confidence in your healthcare choices,” Alvarez added.
Medicare fraud remains a significant issue, costing taxpayers over $60 billion nationally each year. In their ongoing efforts to combat this illicit industry, StateWide introduced the Fraud of the Month program in 2022, shedding light on scams targeting New York’s seniors.