Seniors need to be aware of problems during Medicare enrollment.
Some seniors may be receiving misleading phone calls from Medicare brokers and even being harassed. Dee Forshee, partner at Ming Senior Services, said some brokers who are attempting to sell Medicare Advantage plans are sometimes not following legal guidelines.
Some are being told that they may qualify for special Medicare programs and try to schedule appointments. Or seniors are told there are new regulations or changes to Medicare.
Seniors also are being led to believe that the callers are Medicare employees or work for an insurance carrier.
The Medicare Marketing Guidelines clearly state “Marketing representatives must not claim that Medicare, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), or any government agency endorses or recommends a plan.”
Furthermore, the guidelines say that a marketing representative “Must not lead beneficiaries to believe that the broker or agent works for Medicare, CMS or any government agency.”
Medicare employees do not visit Medicare beneficiaries or make calls to their home, nor does insurance carrier employees, Forshee said.
Sometimes those calls sound very “official” even though they are not, she said.
The CMS does not allow brokers to make the initial contact with Medicare beneficiaries when selling Medicare Advantage plans and other Medicare programs.
Marketing representatives are prohibited from making unsolicited contact with beneficiaries, including through door-to-door solicitation. This includes leaving leaflets, flyers or door hangers at a residence or on someone’s car.
Representatives also are prohibited from approaching beneficiaries in common areas such as parking lots, hallways, lobbies, or sidewalks. Telephonic or electronic solicitation, including leaving electronic voicemail messages, text messaging also is prohibited.
The prohibition on marketing through unsolicited contacts does not extend to mail and other print media such as advertisements and direct mail that meets other CMS requirements.
The Annual Election Period (AEP) to register is getting close leading to an uptick in marketing. The AEP runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. each year.
This is the time for Medicare beneficiaries to look at next year’s options and change plans for the following year.
Anyone with questions about Medicare coverage can call their insurance agent, 1-800-MEDICARE, or visit www.medicare.gov.
If someone suspects fraud, they can contact the local police or the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General at 800-HHS-TIPS.
People also may contact the Missouri Department of Insurance at their Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-726-7390.