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Why Does Medicare Call Me So Often?

Question: I feel like every time I answer the phone there is someone calling me about Medicare. Why does Medicare call me so much?

Answer: This is such a great question and I hear it so often. Medicare, actually Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rarely if ever calls anyone on Medicare. This clarification is important for two very important reasons.

First, every time you answer one of those calls you risk being switched to an insurance product you may not want and you may not understand.

Second, sometimes those calls could be coming from someone committing Medicare Fraud.

In both situations the caller is trying to get YOU to say “Yes” at some point in the conversation and obtain your Medicare ID number.

Not too long ago, your Medicare ID number was your Social Security number. In 2018 CMS began mailing everyone with Medicare a new ID card with a new ID number Unique to you which is a combination of letters and numbers. This was to help prevent some of the Identity Theft we were seeing.

People who want to commit fraud still want to get that ID number from you. All of your providers need that ID number to bill Medicare for your appointments and treatments. Those hoping to defraud Medicare also need that ID number from you.

Other individuals who aren’t looking to defraud Medicare, but alternatively enroll you into different insurance, also need that Medicare ID number. When/if you decide to change your insurance during the annual open enrollment period each year (October 15 to December 7) you will need your Medicare ID number to make that change.

There may be other opportunities to change your insurance during the rest of the year, and that is why those brokers want your Medicare ID number. Many individuals, like insurance brokers get a commission or get paid for enrolling individuals into the insurance products they are affiliated with. Most of the calls you receive are not local people, they are calling from other parts of the country or other countries with the sole goal of getting a hold of that Medicare ID so they can use it as they choose for fraud or to switch you insurance from the product you currently have to something that pays them a commission for making the switch.

Your primary way of protecting yourself is don’t speak to them on the phone. When they say “Hello, is this John Doe?” Don’t answer “Yes”– instead ask “Who is calling?!” When you answer ‘Yes’, they can use that to enroll you into different products, or purchase something you don’t need and didn’t get.

But better yet, don’t answer the phone, let it go to your answer machine and then answer when you know who it is.

Another way to protect yourself is review your mail and your explanation of benefits (EOB’s) from your insurance company for treatments, doctor visits and medications. Look them over to see if they are all valid dates and procedures. Be thorough in reviewing your Explanation of Benefits (insurance carriers and the pharmacy), the items billed, and medications filled at the pharmacy or mail order. Sometimes those EOB’s are not for anything you had done, and that is fraud.

If you are concerned about a procedure, product or medication, I encourage individuals to call the provider first to clarify the bill. If you don’t receive satisfying information, feel free to contact Medicare (1-800-MEDICARE).

If you get a new insurance card in the mail and don’t know why, you could call the company to see what is happening. You also could call Medicare to ask when and why your insurance was changed (1-800-MEDICARE).

The number they use for both Medicare and Medicaid fraud is 1-877-678-4697. If we enrollees are diligent in our efforts to protect against fraud, our Medicare dollars will be put to more productive use, covering your medical costs.

CMS is working hard to keep Medicare a reliable, successful and financially solvent insurance product available to those Americans who have Medicare coverage. Your diligence in reviewing your Medicare Explanation of Benefits and protecting your Medicare ID number will help them with this job.

Senior Life Matters is a community based program sponsored by Lutheran Jamestown. For questions and concerns or to reach Janell Sluga, GCMC, call at 716-720-9797 or email SLM@lutheran-jamestown.org.

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