MEDICARE MAZE

Whether this is your first time applying for coverage, or you’re looking to make changes on existing coverage, it can be a difficult maze of information to go through.

  • For new timers enrolling in Medicare, whether 65 or older, there are enrollment periods to consider, and trying to decide on going with a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan. To help you with this, our Agency conducts Medicare Made Clear educational meetings once a month, from March through August, to help those who are applying for the first time. You can learn about your Medicare choices and we’ll share tools and resources to help you understand what coverage may be right for you.
  • For those looking to make changes, from a Supplement plan to an Advantage plan or from one Advantage plan to another Advantage plan, you have more enrollment periods and coverage changes to consider.   For current Advantage plan members watch for your “Annual Notice of Change” booklet, that comes to you every September, right before the Annual Enrollment Period of Oct. 15 – Dec. 7th. This booklet shows you what plan changes have been made for the coming year and whether or not you should consider looking at other options.

Let us help you get through the Medicare Maze.

Don’t fall victim to Fraud with the new Medicare card

By: Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News March 16, 2018
Everything you need to know about the new Medicare card.

Historically, Medicare ID cards have been stamped with the Social Security numbers of members — currently, about 50 million seniors and 9 million people with serious disabilities. But that’s been problematic: If a wallet or purse were stolen, a thief could use that information, along with an address or birthdate on a driver’s license, to steal someone’s identity.

For years, phone scammers have preyed on older adults by requesting their Medicare numbers, giving various reasons for doing so. People who fall for these ruses have found bank accounts emptied, Social Security payments diverted or bills in their mailboxes for medical services or equipment never received.
Related: The growing need for identity management services

The new cards address these concerns by removing each member’s Social Security number and replacing it with a new, randomly generated 11-digit “Medicare number” (some capital letters are included). This will be used to verify eligibility for services and for billing purposes going forward.

Such a major change can involve bumps along the way, so there will be a transition period during which you can use either your new Medicare card or your old card at doctors’ offices and hospitals. Both should work until Dec. 31, 2019.

If you forget your new card at home, your doctor’s staff should be able to look up your new Medicare number up at a secure computer site. Or, they can use information that’s already on file during the transition period.

“We’ve had a few people contact us and ask ‘If I don’t have the new card at a doctor’s appointment, does that mean my provider won’t see me?’” said Casey Schwartz, senior counsel for education and federal policy at the Medicare Rights Center. “That shouldn’t be an issue.”

Cards will be sent to people covered by Medicare on a rolling basis over a 12-month period ending in April 2019. Older adults in Alaska, California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia will be the first to receive the mailings, between April and June, along with several U.S. territories — American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The last wave of states will be Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, along with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“If your sister who lives in another state gets her card before you, don’t fret,” the Federal Trade Commission explained in a new alert. Since the cards are going out in waves, “your card may arrive at a different time than hers.”

If you think Social Security might not have your current address, call 1-800-772-1213 or check your online Social Security account at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/, the FTC advised.

When you get your new Medicare card, don’t throw your old one in the trash. Instead, put it through a shredder or “spend time cutting it up with a pair of scissors” to make sure the part showing your Social Security number is destroyed, said Amy Nofziger, a fraud expert for AARP.

Those numbers remain sought-after by scammers, and AARP and Senior Medicare Patrol groups tell of receiving fraud reports related to Medicare cards since last year.

In one scam, reported by California’s Area 1 Agency on Aging, a caller purporting to represent Medicare or another government agency claims to need your bank account information so Medicare can arrange a direct deposit of funds into your account. The new Medicare cards are used as an excuse for the call.

In another, circulating in Iowa, scammers are threatening to cancel seniors’ health insurance if they don’t give out their current Medicare card numbers. “We’re telling people, don’t ever give someone this number — just hang up,” said Nancy Ketcham, elder rights specialist at the Elderbridge Agency on Aging, which serves 29 counties in northwestern Iowa.

A month ago, Alfonso Hernandez, 65, who lives in Moreno Valley, Calif., received a call from a man who told him, in Spanish, that Medicare was going to issue new cards and that he needed to verify some information, including Hernandez’s name, address and Social Security number.

“I said no, normally, I don’t give my Social Security number to anyone,” Hernandez said. At that point, the caller put his “supervisor” on the phone, who said the government needed to make sure it had correct information. Caught off guard, Hernandez recited his Social Security number and, “as soon as I did that, they hung up.”

“Immediately, I’m like ‘oh my God, what did I do,’” said Hernandez, who quickly contacted credit agencies to have them put an alert on his account. “I just keep praying that nothing happens.”

Just last week, California’s Senior Medicare Patrol program received a report of another scam detected in Riverside County: a caller claiming that before a senior can get a new Medicare card, he or she has to pay $5 to $50 for a new “temporary” card, according to Sandy Morales, a case manager with the program.

Nofziger of AARP said a Medicare representative will never contact an older adult by phone or email about the new cards and will certainly “never ask for money or personal information or threaten to cancel your health benefits.” The new Medicare cards are free and you don’t need to do anything to receive one: They’re being sent automatically to everyone enrolled in the program. Don’t give out any information to callers who contact you by phone, she advised.

If you suspect fraud, report it to the FTC , AARP’s fraud help line, 1-877-908-3360, or your local Senior Medicare Patrol program.

If you’re among nearly 18 million seniors and people with serious disabilities who have coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, keep the card that your plan issued you. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies, which have their own way of identifying members. Similarly, if you have prescription drug coverage through Medicare — another benefit offered through private insurance companies – keep your card for that plan as well.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Looking into the life of Amy Kriener

When I was asked to write a “personal” blog for our website, I found myself bumping up against resistance…big time! I heard myself saying things like, “I’m not interesting”….” I have nothing to share”? So I started jotting down things that tug at my heart strings, my personal interests and what lies ahead for me.

For anyone who knows me, they know that I LOVE my kids and grandkids. While that’s a pretty common statement for most, in our situation it always comes with layers of complexity. You see, my husband and I moved to the Burlington area almost 40 years ago; I guess you could say we’re transplants of sorts. With no family close by, it was always a big deal and special when we went to visit the grandparents and family. I guess history does repeat itself. Our children don’t live close by either so we make a lot of trips to see them. It’s always a fun time, with many special outings being planned so we make the most out of every moment spent together. We have two beautiful daughters, two fun loving sons-in-law, and 4 adorable grandchildren ranging from7-12 years of age. Their lives are pretty hectic, so it’s easier for us to go to them….in most cases. While our youngest daughter lives in Waunakee WI, our oldest daughter lives much farther away, in Tasmania Australia! Yep you can’t get much farther away than that (maybe Antarctica). So you see pre-planning for spending family time is a must. There’s never a dull moment when we all get together to catch up, which is something that definitely tugs at my heart strings often.

My personal interests include my friends, who we are blessed to have an abundance of; yoga, which strengthens and grounds me; reading, traveling, and enjoying my husbands’ cooking! My husband is an awesome cook, and I’m happy to say that he prepares the majority of our meals. I’m definitely spoiled!!!! And of course, along with that cooking I tend to enjoy a glass of wine…or two.

In addition to my Office Manager duties at Mangold Insurance, I enjoy working with individuals who are preparing for retirement. I help them understand the options available to them when entering the world of Medicare. This has been a very rewarding experience for me because I can relate to where they are at this point in their lives, and I can honestly say that it has helped me as much as I have helped them. It is immensely rewarding to support people’s transition into this exciting stage of their lives. I am looking forward to my own retirement in a few years, and with that there will definitely be more traveling, family, yoga, food and wine ahead of me!

Medicare AEP: Making The Choice That’s Right For You

That time of the year is coming again soon, AEP (Annual Enrollment Period). Oct. 15th through Dec. 7th is the time when Medicare participants can enroll in a Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug plan for the next calendar year.

Although you can do Medicare Supplement business throughout the year, there may be other changes to make during this time and some things to consider.

Cost: How much will you pay for premiums, deductibles, coinsurance and copayments?
Benefits: Does the plan include prescription drug coverage or other additional benefits?
Doctor and hospital choice: Do the doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other providers you prefer accept the plan?

Convenience: Are providers who accept the plan nearby? Can you get prescription or specialty drugs through the mail?

Your healthcare history: How often have you needed care over the past few years? Are you fairly healthy, or do you have a chronic condition that requires ongoing care?

Your healthcare future: Even if you don’t spend much on prescription drugs now, you may in the future. That’s when a Medicare Part D can help cover the cost of your drugs.

Reminder: Are you comfortable with the coverage provided by Medicare Part A and B? Are you able to pay a separate premium for added benefits? A Medicare supplement plan may help cover some unexpected healthcare costs, like a long-term hospital stay. You have many options when choosing your Medicare coverage. The right one for your friends—or even your spouse—may not be the right one for you. We’re here to help you along the way.