September 29, 2011

Missouri Insurance Department warns of con artists during Medicare open enrollment

Insurance director asking home health workers to help protect Missouri seniors

Jefferson City, Mo. - Missouri's top insurance regulator is asking seniors, health care providers and others to be on the lookout for unscrupulous insurance agents during the upcoming Medicare open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff, along with an official from Medicare, has signed a letter to home health workers in the state asking them to report insurance agents and other salespeople who violate Medicare solicitation rules.

"We will be working to make sure that the agents and brokers working on behalf of these plans act appropriately and in accordance with Medicare's laws and guidelines," reads the letter from Huff and Judith Flynn, associate regional administrator for Medicare.

"The vast majority of licensed insurance agents in Missouri are honest and have their customers' best interests at heart," said Huff. "But as with any industry, there are bad actors seeking to take advantage of Missouri seniors. We must do all we can to prevent that, and we need the public's help."

The letter, sent to companies that provide in-home health services to Missourians, also provides a list of acceptable and forbidden sales practices for agents selling Medicare. Under the rules, agents cannot:

  • Claim to represent or be endorsed by Medicare
  • Solicit door-to-door
  • Solicit using unwanted emails, text messages or voice mails
  • Approach people in common areas like parking lots, hallways and sidewalks
  • Pitch products in health care settings like hospital waiting areas, exam rooms, patient rooms and pharmacy counters
  • Set up an appointment to discuss Medicare, then sell unrelated products like life insurance or annuities

In general, agents may only discuss Medicare products during appointments arranged with the permission of the consumer. Consumers should never release personal information, such as bank, credit card or Social Security numbers, to anyone who contacts them by phone or email.

Huff encourages consumers to take advantage of the CLAIM program, a free service funded by the Department of Insurance and Medicare, which provides expert one-on-one counseling for Missourians with Medicare and their loved ones. Consumers can call 800-390-3330 or visit