The open enrollment period for Medicare begins today, October 15th and continues until December 7th. This is the only time during the year that people enrolled in Medicare can change their Medicare health plans, Medigap plans and their prescription drug plans. By now, people already enrolled in Medicare should have received an Annual Notice of Change from their health insurance providers describing any changes to their plans such as the dropping of particular drugs from their prescription drug plan. If you are satisfied with your plans, you do not need to do anything.
Scammers and identity thieves view the open enrollment period as senior citizen hunting season as myriads of Medicare scams are common during this time. Among the scams are phone calls or emails purporting to be from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) informing you that Medicare is issuing new Medicare cards and that in order to continue to receive benefits, you need to obtain a new card which can be done by providing the person contacting you with your Medicare number which is your Social Security number. If you provide this number, you will end up becoming a victim of identity theft. What makes this scam particularly troublesome is that there is a kernel of truth to this scam. Under legislation finally passed this year, Medicare will be required to stop using people’s Social Security number as their Medicare identification number. Unfortunately however, the legislation does not require Medicare to change the identifying numbers of people presently receiving Medicare benefits until eight years from now.
You also may be contacted by someone purporting to be from your insurance company asking to verify information. Again, this is a common tactic of identity thieves trying to trick you into providing information. You also may be contacted by people claiming to have supplemental insurance programs that will save you thousands of dollars. Here too, you cannot be sure that they are legitimate when they contact you by phone, text message, email or even regular mail.
Medicare is not issuing new cards to Medicare recipients at this time and they will never contact you by phone and ask for your Medicare number. Never give personal information to anyone who calls you on the phone because you can never be sure who is actually on the other end of the line. Through a technique called “spoofing,” a scammer can fool your Caller ID and make it appear that the call is from the government or some legitimate company when in fact, it is from an identity thief who is eager to steal your money. If you want to get information you can trust about what insurance plans are available to you and at what cost, merely go to the “Plan Finder” section of Medicare’s website www.medicare.gov. If you want to speak with someone on the phone, call Medicare at its 24 hour hotline 1-800-MEDICARE.