By Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Program Integrity
Fight health care fraud: guard your Medicare number!
The next Medicare Open Enrollment season (October 15 to December 7) is almost here, which means fraudsters and identity thieves will increase their efforts to get and abuse Medicare numbers from people like you.
Fortunately, there are many measures you can take to fight health care fraud:
- Guard your Medicare number. Protect it the same way you do for your credit card numbers. Medicare will never contact you for your Medicare number or other personal information. Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
- Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
- If you’re looking to enroll in a Medicare plan, be suspicious of anyone who pressures you to act now for the best deal. There are no “early bird discounts” or “limited time offers”. Any offer that sounds too good to be true probably is.
- Be skeptical of free gifts and free medical services. A common ploy of identity thieves is to say they can send you your free gift right away—they just need your Medicare number to confirm. Decline politely but firmly. Remember, it’s not rude to be shrewd!
- Do your part to protect your friends and neighbors: remind them to guard their Medicare numbers, too.
- Check your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) to make sure you and Medicare are only being charged for services you actually had. Instead of waiting for the MSN, which comes in the mail every 3 months, you can access your Original Medicare claims at MyMedicare.gov. You’ll usually be able to see a claim within 24 hours after Medicare processes it.
You can report suspected fraud by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. To learn more about how to protect yourself from health care fraud, visit Medicare.gov or contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). To find the SMP in your state, go to the SMP Locator at Smpresource.org.
“To do” lists are very helpful during this hectic time of year. If something important isn’t written down, it’s easy to forget. If you still haven’t crossed off “Compare Medicare coverage” from your to do list, time is running out!
Medicare Open Enrollment ends this week on December 7. To help you sort through your choices, try using the Medicare Plan Finder. You can review the plan options in your area and decide the best mix of benefits and costs that meets your needs and budget.
In these last few days of Medicare Open Enrollment, take a moment to review your health care coverage and see if you need to make any changes for next year. If you decide you’re happy with the plan you have now, and the plan’s still being offered next year, you don’t need to do anything. But if you’re thinking about making any changes, now’s the time to act so you can cross another item off your to do list.
We like when things are automatic. From smart phone reminders to automatic coffee makers – it’s nice when something’s done before we even need to think about doing it. Whether you’ve already picked a new plan for 2015, or decided to keep the plan you had in 2014, one thing you might not have thought about is paying the monthly premium.
Most Medicare drug plans charge a monthly premium that varies by plan. You pay this in addition to your Medicare Part B premium. It’s important to pay this premium on time to keep your coverage and the peace of mind that comes with it.
Did you know that you can have this premium automatically deducted from your monthly Social Security payment? All you need to do is contact your Medicare drug plan (not Social Security). Your first deduction will usually take 3 months to start, and 3 months of premiums will likely be deducted at once. After that, only one premium will be deducted each month. You may also see a delay in premiums being withheld if you switch plans. If you want to stop premium deductions and get billed directly, just let your plan know.
Take the worry and guesswork out of when to pay your premium bills – contact your plan today.
Have you ever bought milk from the convenience store just around the corner even though it’s a bit more expensive than buying it at the grocery store? Most of us have made decisions to do or not do something based on convenience.
The same is true when it comes to choosing a health plan: convenience matters. In addition to cost, coverage, and benefits, here are some other things you may want to consider as you compare Medicare options this year:
Doctor and hospital choice
You want to be comfortable with the people you’re working with, especially when it comes to something as private as your health. Do the doctors you know accept your coverage? Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Do they often keep you waiting?
Is the pharmacy you use included in your drug plan’s network? Do they e-prescribe? Can you get refills by mail? Remember that plan networks can change from year to year. If it’s important to you to stay with the same pharmacy, check to make sure they’ll still be in your plan’s network.
Do you travel a lot, or spend part of the year in a different state? If so, see if your coverage will travel with you.
Ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care may help speed your recovery and improve your outcomes.
Your time is valuable — and so is your health. Only you know what mix of coverage and convenience is most important to you and your family.
We’re working hard to make sure you have choices in the way you get the Medicare benefits you’ve earned – and we want you to be comfortable. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.
Going through the process of buying a car takes a bit of elbow grease, but when the salesman throws in free oil changes and scheduled maintenance, it’s worth it. Not only are you saving money, but there’s a peace of mind knowing that the support you’ll need is free.
Extra benefits and peace of mind can be a big plus in health coverage, too.
If you have Medicare, you get to enjoy extra benefits thanks to the Affordable Care Act like these:
Medicare also covers a yearly wellness exam each year. This is a great chance to sit down with your doctor and take the time to talk about your needs — and address small health concerns before they become big ones. You can keep track of your preventive services and get reminders for them at MyMedicare.gov.
Also, most people with Medicare have access to Medicare Advantage Plans, and many of these plans offer extra benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover like vision, hearing, dental coverage, prescription drugs, or extended coverage when you travel.
Just like deciding what car to buy, only you know what extra benefits and services are most important for you and your family. During Medicare Open Enrollment, decide what benefits are most important in helping you meet your unique health care needs. Use the Medicare Plan Finder to look at all of the health and drug plan options in your area.
In today’s world, we’re all a little more conscious of costs. Maybe we clip a few more coupons or compare ads to find the best price on something before we buy. With the internet, we also have a wealth of information online to help us shop around. Cost is an important factor in any purchase, and health care is no different.
We know you want to get the best value possible from your health care coverage. But you still need to make smart choices to get good value that meets your own health care needs. There may be dozens of Medicare plans in your area, all with different costs and levels of coverage. With all these choices, you may have questions like: How much are each plan’s premiums and deductibles? How much will you pay for the benefits and services you’re likely to use? Is there a limit on what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the year? If you’re currently in a plan, how does that plan stack up to the other plans that are available?
Prescription drug coverage is another part of the cost puzzle. How much will your prescriptions cost under each plan? Does the plan cover the drugs you take? Remember, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, everyone who reaches the Part D coverage gap (or “donut hole”) will benefit from a discount of 55% on covered brand-name drugs.
Only you can determine what mix of benefits and costs will work best with your needs and budget. Shopping around can make a huge difference, and we want to help. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans so you can pick a plan that meets your needs. After you’ve narrowed your options, you can call the plans you’re interested in to get more details about their benefits and services, or check out their websites.
Whether it’s groceries, health insurance, or anything else, you want value for your dollar. Make sure you have the most up-to-date information that’s available.
Fall is picking season – pumpkins, apples, Halloween candy…and a Medicare health or drug plan. Today’s the start of Medicare Open Enrollment!
Picking a plan is an important and personal decision. Now’s the time to think about what matters to you, and to pick the Medicare plan that meets your needs. Here are some things to think about:
Does the plan cover the services you need?
Future health care needs can be hard to predict, but changes happen. Make sure you understand what services and benefits you’re likely to use in the coming year and find coverage that meets your needs. If you have other types of health or prescription drug coverage, make sure you understand how that coverage works with Medicare. And, if you travel a lot, does your plan cover you when you’re away from home?
No matter what plan you pick, you’ll have better choices and more benefits thanks to the Affordable Care Act like these:
What’s the cost?
The lowest-cost health plan option might not be the best choice for you – consider things like the cost of premiums and deductibles, how much you pay for hospital stays and doctor visits, and whether it’s important for you to have expenses balanced throughout the year.
How about convenience?
Your time is valuable. Where are the doctors’ offices? What are their hours? Which pharmacies can you use? Can you get prescriptions by mail? Do the doctors use electronic health records or prescribe electronically?
Quality is important!
Not all health care is created equal, and the doctors, hospitals and facilities you choose can impact your health. Open Enrollment is also a good time to ask yourself whether you’re truly satisfied with your medical care. Look for plans with a 5‑star performance rating — the right expertise and care can make a difference.
Remember that even if you’re happy with your current plan, these answers might change from year to year – so it’s important to take the time to compare. The Medicare Plan Finder makes it easy to compare plans based on all of these factors, so you can pick a plan that meets your needs.