November 13, 2009
State insurance department warns of Medicare scams during open enrollment
Jefferson City, Mo.— Medicare recipients in Missouri will soon have a chance to shop around to the find the best Medicare Part D plan for them, and state insurance regulators say to watch out for scams and overly aggressive sales tactics. The annual open enrollment period, Nov. 15 through Dec. 31, means Medicare recipients can switch to a plan that better fits their needs. It also means companies selling Part D plans will intensify their marketing efforts.
The department recommends Missourians with questions about their Medicare coverage contact the CLAIM program, a Columbia-based nonprofit funded by state and federal grants. Consumers can ask questions by phone or arrange free one-on-one counseling by calling 1-800-390-3330 or visiting missouriclaim.org.
CLAIM volunteers assist a Medicare recipient at an open enrollment event in St. Louis
“Even if you’re happy with your current coverage, you should shop around because prices and plans change, so there may be another plan out there that’s better for you,” said John M. Huff, director of the Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP). “The experts at the CLAIM program can help you sort through complex and confusing insurance policies and pick the plan that best fits your needs.”
Huff says scammers often use current events to mislead their victims, so scams in 2009 may take advantage of confusion surrounding the federal health insurance reform proposals.
DIFP Director John Huff meets with CLAIM volunteers at an open enrollment event in St. Louis
Huff and CLAIM want consumers to remember:
- Beware of door-to-door and telemarketing sales pitches, both of which are forbidden by Medicare without an appointment.
- Medicare has no sales representatives – some scammers will claim to work for Medicare.
- Medicare prohibits marketing or selling products in health care or educational settings.
- Medicare prohibits offers of free meals in return for sitting through a sales pitch.
- Don’t give personal information – such as credit card, bank account or Social Security numbers – to anyone who contacts you. Only give this information out when you initiate the contact.
- Check with the Department of Insurance or CLAIM to verify that both the insurance agent is licensed by the department and the plan is authorized by Medicare.
CLAIM is funded by the DIFP and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the past year, CLAIM helped more than 20,000 Missourians through one-on-one counseling and reached more than 60,000 others through speeches and distributing literature and answering questions at public events.
Consumers with questions about Medicare or other insurance issues can contact the Department of Insurance at 1-800-726-7390 or visit insurance.mo.gov
About the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration
The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) is responsible for consumer protection through the regulation of financial industries and professionals. The department's seven divisions work to enforce state regulations both efficiently and effectively while encouraging a competitive environment for industries and professions to ensure consumers have access to quality products.