The recently passed health care reform has older adults looking at how the newly passed legislation may affect their Medi-care or other health care coverage. However, it is also providing a perfect opportunity for new scams to appear telling Medicare beneficiaries that they have to make changes in their health care policy. "Obama Care" is a fictitious policy that scammers claim is required by health care reform, even for those on Medicare.
To encourage individuals to enroll into Obama Care or similar universal care policies, scammers may claim there is a limited time to enroll and if one does not take advantage of this enrollment period they will no longer have health care coverage after a certain date. After collecting an older adult's personal information, including their Medicare number and bank account information, the victim will soon find that while they did not lose their health care coverage, they lost much of what was in their bank account.
Scammers are also using the health care overhaul's fix to the "doughnut hole" in the Medicare prescription-drug program as a device to steal. This year, the law provides beneficiaries with $250 once they hit the coverage gap in the drug program. Scammers are calling and identifying themselves as being with the government. The beneficiary is told they are going to be receiving their $250 all that is needed at this time from the beneficiary is their bank account number.
Older people are popular targets. They are generally more polite and will listen to a salesperson. They're also less likely to report being scammed out of embarrassment, or fear that their independence might be taken away.
Remember, there is no government health insurance program called Obama Care, and federal employees aren't out selling it door-to-door or by telephone. If you already have Medicare, you'll be notified by mail if there are any necessary changes. If you have any questions, call Medicare to double-check. If you don't have Medicare yet, but receive a phone call, or something in the mail saying you need to buy a special policy, call your own insurance company to ask if there are any changes you need to know about.
To keep up with the new health-care changes, you can read the reports at healthreform.gov.
To report a potential scam or if you have been the victim of a scam, call the N.D. Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). ND SMP is a free service which provides one-on-one assistance with Medicare fraud and scams. Call 1-800-233-1737 for assistance or go to (www.ndcpd.org/smp).
Linda Madsen is project director for N.D. Center for Persons with Disabilities in Minot.