Seniors: Don’t be deceived during Medicare open enrollment

Friday, October 23, 2009

 

Steve Poizner, California Insurance Commissioner, today urged seniors to protect themselves from agents and brokers who routinely seek to take advantage of seniors.

"I want to be sure that seniors do not become the victims of aggressive or deceptive sales practices which are too common during open enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans and the Medicare Prescription Drug Program," said Commissioner Poizner. "Seniors and their families should arm themselves with as much information as possible." Poizner counseled seniors and their families to contact their state department of insurance.

Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans and the Medicare Prescription Drug Program begins on Nov. 15, 2009. Between now and the end of the open enrollment period, many insurance agents will engage in vigorous marketing and sales efforts. 

Commissioner Poizner offers the following tips to help seniors protect themselves against predatory insurance sales practices during open enrollment for Medicare Advantage plans and the Medicare Prescription Drug Program:

  • Make Sure They're Licensed: Not all people marketing Medicare Advantage plans are insurance agents. If the person you are dealing with claims to be an insurance agent, contact your state insurance department to verify license status. In most states, insurance agents are required to print their license number on all business cards, quotations, and advertisements. Also, verify that the insurance company is licensed to do business in your state  
  • Cold Calls Prohibited: Federal regulations prohibit "cold calls" which may take the form of uninvited sales calls, door-to-door visits, unsolicited emails, telephone calls or any other type of sales contact without your express invitation.
  • Be Stingy with Personal Information: Never give out personal information such as your Social Security number, bank account numbers or credit card information over the phone. Verify that the person you are dealing with has proper authority to act on behalf of the plan before you provide your Medicare number. This is a good time to seek assistance from a trusted relative, friend or advisor.
  • Medicare Has No Official Sales Reps: Be wary of any salesperson who says that he/she is a Medicare representative. Medicare does not send "representatives" to solicit your business. 
  • No Marketing in Educational or Care Settings: Federal regulations prohibit the marketing of Medicare products in places where health care is delivered (such as a doctor's office, clinic, or pharmacy counter) or at an educational event.
  • No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: Federal regulations prohibit offers of free meals for listening to a sales presentation or for signing up in a particular plan.
  • Don't Let Them Oversell You: Federal regulations prohibit selling additional insurance products during any sales or marketing presentation for a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan.
  • Read and Understand the Plan: Be sure that the plan that you choose matches your needs and that you can continue to see your current health care providers if you wish. It may be very difficult or even impossible to "undo" your selection later. 

Californians with questions about an insurance offer, scheme or agent can contact the state Department of Insurance at 800-927-HELP (4357) or visit our website at www.insurance.ca.gov.

In other states, go to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)—www.naic.org—to find your state insurance department contact information.

Information about Medicare is available at 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) or www.medicare.gov.

 

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