The Dallas Morning News ran an article earlier this month about Medicare insurance sales people pressuring senior citizens to buy policies they don’t want or need. Here are excerpts from the story:
The annual enrollment period for private Medicare plans has brought out overly aggressive and deceptive sales agents again, so consumer advocates and insurance regulators are warning seniors to be on guard.
The annual enrollment season for the private insurance, sold as “Medicare Advantage” plans, began in mid-November and runs until Dec. 31. In some cases, people may sign up until March 31.
The private insurance is an alternative to traditional Medicare and has grown in popularity in recent years because it offers enhanced benefits, such as preventive care and disease management.
About one in five Medicare beneficiaries is now in an Advantage plan.
Still, consumer advocates argue that the private coverage isn’t as extensive as many traditional Medicare supplemental plans and may not be suitable for seniors with chronic or serious illnesses.
A common concern among advocates is that some physicians and hospitals don’t accept patients on private Medicare plans – a point the advocates say isn’t always explained to seniors before they enroll.
The recent complaints about unscrupulous agents come despite Medicare’s efforts to curb hard-sell tactics.
This year, the federal agency began requiring insurance companies to make follow-up calls to beneficiaries to check whether the seniors understood the terms of the coverage they had just purchased from an agent.
Here are some tips from the article:
GUARD AGAINST FRAUD
- Don’t join a plan until you’ve confirmed that your doctor and other health care providers will accept it.
- Don’t buy anything from a salesperson who comes to your home uninvited. It’s illegal to sell Medicare Advantage plans door-to-door.
- Don’t be fooled if a salesperson claims to be with Medicare or Social Security. Neither agency makes home visits or unsolicited phone calls.
- Don’t say yes to a salesperson who tries to pressure you to make a quick decision.
- Don’t sign anything you haven’t read or don’t understand.
SOURCE: Texas Department of Insurance
HOW TO GET HELP
If you think you’ve been misled or pressured into enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan:
- Call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or the Senior Source at 214-823-5700.
If you want to report fraud or other agent misconduct:
- Visit the Texas Department of Insurance Web site at http://tdi.state.tx.us or call 1-800-252-3439.
If you need help with an insurance question:
- Call the Texas Department of Insurance at 1-800-252-3439 or the local Area Agency on Aging at 211.
The Dallas Morning News provided a chart comparing various Medicare insurance plans.