November 15, 2010

State insurance department offers free help during Medicare open enrollment

Jefferson City, Mo. - Missourians on Medicare shopping around for the medical and drug plans that are best for them have a free resource through the state Department of Insurance to help them sort through their options.

The CLAIM program, funded by the department and Medicare, offers free, expert assistance to Missourians on Medicare or their loved ones. Consumers can ask questions by phone or arrange free one-on-one counseling by calling 800-390-3330 or visiting

The annual open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 31, is the time for consumers to review current plans, compare options and choose plans that best meet their needs. It's a way to save money, get better coverage, or both. It's also the time insurance companies selling Medicare Advantage and Part D drug plans intensify their marketing efforts. CLAIM counselors can help consumers find the right plan and avoid falling for overly aggressive sales pitches.

 "With a state and federally funded program offering help, there's no reason for Medicare open enrollment to turn into a stressful time for consumers," said Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff. "Often times, 15 minutes is all it takes for CLAIM counselors to help consumers sort through their options and find the plan that fits."

CLAIM will be hosting free events throughout Missouri during open enrollment. Consumers are invited to attend and get their Medicare questions answered by trained counselors. A list of events is available by calling CLAIM's toll-free number.

Huff also advises consumers to watch out for suspicious come-ons:

  • Door-to-door and telemarketing pitches 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 can also help consumers determine whether they qualify for federal or state help in paying for prescription drugs on a limited income. Medicare offers the Extra Help program, and the state offers the MoRx program.