The annual open enrollment period for Medicare will begin on October 15th and continue 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.

Although the Medicare open enrollment period hasn’t even begun, already scammers are hard at work on a number of different scams.   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 Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) informing you, as you undoubtedly already know, that Medicare issued 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 old Medicare number which was your Social Security number.   By now all Medicare subscribers have received their new cards, but scammers are continuing to try to lure people into providing personal information under the guise of needing it to issue another new card.  Between April 2018 and December 31, 2019 a Medicare recipient who has a new card has the option to use either his or her old number or the new, more secure Medicare number. Starting in 2020 only the new numbers will be used.

Seniors also may be contacted by someone purporting to be from their insurance company asking them to verify information. Again, this is a common tactic of identity thieves trying to trick their victims into providing information. They also may be contacted by people claiming to have supplemental insurance programs that will save them 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.

TIPS

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 manipulate 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.  Your Medicare options can be quite confusing.  Fortunately, the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) which is a national network of federally funded programs provide free Medicare counseling.  Here is a link to SHIP’s website https://www.shiptacenter.org/

By now, if you are a Medicare subscriber you have  already received your new Medicare card.  Although you can still use your old Medicare card that carries your Social Security number until the end of the year, you should start using your new card now instead of your old, less secure Medicare card.

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