The Affordable Care Act provides opportunities and benefits for America's seniors. Unfortunately, new opportunities for beneficiaries also bring new opportunities for scam artists to try and defraud seniors. Beneficiaries are receiving calls and letters falsely claiming they need new Medicare cards, asking Medicare enrollees for confirmation of their Medicare numbers and even going as far as telling seniors that the new legislation requires them to change to their health care benefits. All of this is false and seniors must be vigilant in guarding against such scams.
Below are some recent examples of scam reports to Health and Human Services through the Senior Medicare Patrol Program:
SCAM: In Utah, there were reports of phone calls to seniors regarding "new Medicare cards" and seniors were told they need the new card as a result of the new Affordable Care Act.
FACT: Seniors are NOT required to do anything to receive any of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Seniors won't be issued new Medicare cards and they do not need to register with anyone to receive the $250 rebate check. The check will be mailed directly to each senior at their home after they hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the "donut hole."
SCAM: In Wyoming, there was a report of a fraudulent caller claiming to be from Medicare and wanted to confirm a senior's Medicare number.
FACT: No senior should ever give their Medicare number to any caller. All seniors should treat their Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like a credit card number, and should never give these out to a stranger. If someone claims to be with Medicare and asks for your information, ask for their name and report it to 1-800-MEDICARE.
SCAM: In Kansas, a creative insurance salesman mailed a release form to his policy holders that authorized him to make medical decisions for them.
FACT: Seniors should never sign a form without understanding its contents or knowing its source. Always read and keep a copy of any document or agreement that asks for a signature. Contact a trusted source or the ND SHIC Program (1-888-575-6611) to help verify the validity of these offers.
SCAM: In Michigan, there were reports of seniors being approached by insurance agents claiming that the recent legislation requires seniors to make changes to their health care benefits, including Part D plans.
FACT: The Affordable Care Act gives seniors more control over their heath care choices. No senior is required to make any changes to their Medicare plan. Seniors can make changes to their plans during the open enrollment period which takes place every year from November to the end of December. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offers seniors various tools through its (www.Medicare.gov) Web site to compare health plans and drug costs under those and other plans. Seniors should be leery of anyone approaching them and encouraging them to switch plans.
Beneficiaries who have revealed their Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers and other personal data in recent scams are urged to act now and take the following steps:
--Contact ND's SMP program at 1-800-233-1737.
--Contact your doctor's office and ask them not to approve requests for prescriptions for durable medical equipment.
--File complaints with Attorney General's office and FTC
In order to be safe and protect your identity, do not give out your personal information.
You can also visit the Web site (www.stopmedicarefraud.gov) to learn more about efforts to fight scams like these. ND SMP is a free service which provides one-on-one assistance with Medicare fraud and scams. Call 858-3580 for assistance or go to (www.ndcpd.org/smp).
Linda Madsen is project director for N.D. Center for Persons with Disabilities in Minot.