Lost amongst all of the furor around the launch of the insurance exchanges of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare is the fact that we are now in the open enrollment period for Medicare which will last until December 7, 2013. The open enrollment period is the time during which America’s fifty million elderly Medicare beneficiaries can choose or change Medicare plans including prescription drug plans. There are many changes in Medicare plans this year and many people are confused as to what they should be doing. As always, scammers and identity thieves are ready to take advantage of this confusion and many Medicare enrollment scams have recently sprung up. Many of these scams involve various solicitations that appear to either come from Medicare or individual insurance companies by email or phone in which you are asked for personal information. Medicare will not contact you by phone or email in regard to any changes in the law or your coverage. A good rule to follow to avoid Medicare scams is to never provide personal information over the phone or in response to an email or text message because you can never be sure that the phone call, email or text is from a legitimate source regardless of how official the communication may appear. This year in particular, one of the more popular scams is when you are called and told that you need a new Medicare card and that to do so you need to provide your Medicare ID number to the caller. There are no new Medicare cards being issued to people already receiving Medicare benefits. Further, your Medicare ID is the same as your Social Security number so if you provide that number to the caller, he or she will promptly use that number to make you a victim of identity theft.
The best places to go if you have questions about Medicare are the government’s official Medicare website of www.medicare.gov or www.shiptalk.org which is the website of the State Health Insurance Program which uses the acronym SHIP. The people at SHIP provide personal advice and counseling in regard to Medicare. The website www.shiptalk.org will enable you to get contact information for the SHIP offices in your state.