Consumer Advisory: Five Tips for Medicare Enrollees
Medicare Open Enrollment ends on Dec. 7.
DENVER (Nov. 22, 2019) – As we approach the final weeks of Medicare Open Enrollment, which runs every year from Oct. 15 - Dec. 7, Colorado’s Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) is offering precautions and tips for Colorado’s Medicare population. The SMP, which is housed in the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, helps educate people on how to prevent, detect and report Medicare fraud
Medicare is the federal health insurance program primarily for people 65 and older, as well as certain younger people with disabilities and people with end-stage renal disease. During the annual open enrollment period, Medicare enrollees can make changes to their Medicare Advantage plans (or go back to original Medicare), as well as make changes to their Medicare Part D plan (for prescriptions).
The last couple weeks of Medicare Open Enrollment can be stressful, as people work through important decisions. However, when it comes to talking to insurance agents / brokers or companies about Medicare, be mindful of these five tips to prevent you from rushing into, or being pressured into, a poor decision.
- Be leery about doing business over the phone unless you initiated the phone call to a known business number. In a similar vein, be careful when calling phone numbers in insurance ads, whether in flyers or on television or radio. Such ads may promise benefits or services that you may not qualify to receive (notice the fine print at the bottom of the ad).
- Be cautious with allowing sales people into your home. Salespeople who make unsolicited visits to your home are usually best avoided. If you need to meet with a salesperson, it may be better to meet with them in a public place. If you chose to invite them into your home, have someone with you during the meeting. And if they do not leave when you ask them to, you may need to call the police. Insurance agents/ brokers or representatives engaging in such behavior should also be reported to the SMP at 800-503-5190.
- Know who you’re doing business with. Get a business card from the insurance agent / broker so you know who they are and can contact them with any follow-up questions. You should also check that the person is licensed to sell insurance in Colorado, and that their license is in good standing. Call 800-275-8247 or visit the DOI’s Verify a License page to check on a license. And insurance salespeople should not be selling anything but insurance. If they offer to provide some other type of service (such as DNA testing), decline and talk to your doctor about the need for such services. Such behavior should be reported to the SMP at 800-503-5190.
- Don’t be pressured into purchasing insurance. High pressure tactics should be a red flag. It’s also important to know that federal guidance now allows insurance agents / brokers to educate and sell at the same location. This means that Medicare education events will likely also be sales events. Remember, just because someone provided information, education, or a meal, you should not feel obligated to purchase something from them.
- If you aren’t the one doing the enrollment, ask for a copy of the plan information and enrollment confirmation. This gives you a record and allows you to continue to review the information. If someone helps you set up a My Medicare account to do the Medicare plan enrollment (through Medicare.gov), make sure it is someone you trust (a family member or a long-time friend - not someone you just met or who just called you). Always protect your My Medicare account login information.
In general, for anyone buying any kind of insurance, the most important precaution is to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the insurance product you are considering before you agree to buy it. If you don’t understand it at a level where you could explain it to someone else, ask questions until you do. If you have any concerns about the behavior of any insurance agent or broker selling Medicare products, report it to the Colorado SMP at 800-503-5190.
As the Dec. 7 end of Medicare Open Enrollment draws near, know that you can call Medicare (800-633-4227) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to enroll in a Medicare plan, or go to Medicare.gov to enroll yourself.
The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholders with insurance issues. Visit dora.colorado.gov/insurance for more information or call 303-894-7499 / toll free 800-930-3745.
DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit dora.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7855 / toll free 1-800-886-7675.