Know Your Rights During Medicare Open Enrollment

by The Senior Medicare Patrol, National Resource Center, Lois C. Greisman, Elder Justice Coordinator, FTC

During Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which ends December 7, Medicare beneficiaries can choose the plans that are best for them. You can get help comparing Medicare plans from the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) that are in all U.S. states and territories. It’s also good to understand what sellers are — and aren’t — allowed to do, so you’ll be prepared if an insurance agent or representative tries to enroll you in a Medicare plan that isn’t right for you.

There are limits on how Medicare plans can contact beneficiaries.Medicare plans:

  • Can’t call you if you don’t have a relationship with their company.
  • Can’t send you email if you haven’t agreed to this form of contact.
  • Can’t come to your home to sell Medicare products without an invitation.
  • Can’t leave flyers, door hangers, or leaflets on your car or at your home. However, agents and brokers who have a scheduled appointment with you may leave plan information at your residence if you don’t show up for the appointment.

When you meet or talk with an agent, they:

  • Can’t start a discussion about other insurance products, like life insurance annuities, if your meeting is about Medicare Part C or Part D.
  • Can’t set their own time limits for you to sign up for a plan. You have until December 7 to enroll, and you can’t get any extra benefits for signing up early.
  • Can’t threaten to take away your benefits if you don’t sign up for a plan or offer gifts if you do.
  • Can’t suggest that Medicare endorses or prefers their plan.
  • Can’t discuss Medicare products you didn’t ask to talk about when you filled out a scope of appointment form.

Once you’ve picked the plan that’s right for you, be sure you get all the details in writing before signing up. Take your time to read all information and verify details. For example, reach out to your doctors to ensure they are in that plan’s network.

If a scammer calls

Scammers might call and pretend to be Medicare representatives or agents in an attempt to steal your Medicare number. They can use fake caller identification to impersonate Medicare or another organization you know, so don’t trust the name displayed on your phone’s screen. If anyone calls and asks for your Medicare, Social Security, or bank or credit card information, hang up. A scammer can use your personal information to file false claims, sign you up for a plan to which you didn’t agree, or even steal your identity. A legitimate Medicare employee will always have your Medicare number on file.

For more information about Medicare fraud, errors, or abuse, visit smpresource.org. To report someone pretending to be from Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE and visit ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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