Whether you just turned 65 or you’ve been gilding through your golden years for a while now, it’s likely you are or will soon be covered by Medicare. As a member of this program, you’re entitled to myriad benefits — but you’re also a target for fraud.
Medicare scammers are numerous — and they’re trying to steal from you or from the program itself. From working only with reputable, licensed professionals to spotting the “red flags” of Medicare fraud, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and your benefits.
Vet your insurance agent or broker
Whether you’re new to Medicare, annual enrollment is an important time — not only because it enables you to make changes to or enroll in a Medicare plan, but because it’s also a time you need to take extra caution in protecting your information.
Fraudsters posing as insurance salespeople may offer you nonexistent supplemental plans to steal money, credit card information, Social Security numbers or all of the above. Additionally, even a licensed insurance agent may try selling you a plan that isn’t right for you simply because he or she doesn’t offer one that is — or is motivated by larger profits.
Rather than letting insurance agents find you, vet and seek out a reputable, licensed insurance broker. Insurance brokers can issue supplemental policies from a variety of providers, enabling you to choose what’s best for your health needs and budget. Choosing an insurance broker that specializes in Medicare plans is optimal. For example, Bridlewood Insurance, in San Diego, focuses on “educating” rather than “selling to” its customers to help them secure the most advantageous plan available to them.
Say ‘no’ to phone calls
It sounds believable enough: An operator from Medicare calls you to offer you Part D prescription coverage or to give you an update about your plan. You’ll just have to provide a few personal details to get everything straightened out. If you’re tempted to comply (or even if you’re not), just hang up.
According to CNBC, there’s been an uptick in Medicare scams recently. Because of this, Medicare is sending new ID cards with a random 11-digit code to protect your Social Security number — and even that is provoking fraud, as scammers are calling seniors and telling them they’ll need to pay for their new card over the phone.
Other phone-related scams include stealing ID numbers, Social Security numbers and credit card information. In addition to using your credit cards or opening new ones in your name, fraudsters can also steal your medical benefits. From seeing doctors to obtaining prescriptions to ordering medical equipment and supplies, you could wind up on the hook for thousands of dollars if someone fraudulently uses your benefits.
Medicare will only contact you by mail, so if anyone calls you posing as a Medicare representative, just hang up.
Review your claims for accuracy
Unfortunately, it’s not just evil cyber geniuses who are hoping to get a penny (or a few) out of Medicare’s deep pockets. Doctors, nursing homes, medical equipment providers and other health professionals may overbill Medicare on your behalf in hopes of turning a bigger profit.
Medicare.gov offers information on identifying fraud, as well as instructions for reporting it. To make sure your health care providers aren’t taking advantage of the program you depend on, review your claims and notify Medicare if you see charges for equipment, procedures or treatments you didn’t receive, or if you notice anything else that seems suspicious.
Don’t fall for ‘free’
There’s something about that f-word that makes it easy to overlook your gut instincts. But if a doctor, facility or other health care provider is offering you services or equipment free of charge, you need to be suspicious. According to Medicare, you should notify the program’s fraud department immediately if your health care provider tells you any medical services or equipment are "free" or that Medicare wants you to have specific procedures or services.
Additionally, if a doctor or provider doesn’t charge co-pays without checking your ability to pay, submits the wrong diagnosis or offers you cash or kickbacks, call Medicare. For a full list of health care provider "red flags," visit Medicare.gov.
Even if you’re confident you can spot Medicare fraud, navigating the program and getting the best supplement plan for your needs can be daunting. For step-by-step guidance and myriad options to suit your needs, Bridlewood Insurance has you — and your health — covered.