Mark Harvey — Medicare Part D plan change is near; be aware of scams


This is the 16th day of September, 2012 – Sunday. If you’re me (and most of you aren’t), it’s getting on toward Fall. I don’t know when Fall actually begins and I don’t really care, but here’s why I care that it’s Sept., 16, 2012: In just a touch over a month, it’s going to be Oct. 15, 2012, and that’s a day about which any of us who deal with Medicare care DEEPLY, because that’s the first day of “open enrollment” for Medicare Part D (“D” as in “drug”) and Advantage Plans, so let’s take our first pause here.

As most of us who aren’t comatose are painfully aware, we are also in the midst of an election season. We know this because a lot of people are spending a lot of time, energy and money telling us things that aren’t true, or are only partially true; well, OK, we get commercials and commercial marketing for this-or-that thing, service or preparation on a year-round basis, but in this particular context, people who want to be in this-or-that political office are telling us things that they want us to hear and believe, in hopes that their particular brand of disinformation will inspire us to propel them to this-or-that political office – and “truth” is often the incidental casualty.

Now, I have no intention of getting “political” on you – Your politics are your politics and mine are mine, be it ever thus. But here’s something I want you to read and remember: In the here-and-now, right now, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that you need to do, change or NOT do, because of the Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, Healthcare Reform, Obama Care). Did you get that? Nothing.

Now with all of the fear, furor and word fog that is being generated on an hourly basis, there is a fair amount of fear floating about regarding Medicare (“What do I have to do?”) – Again, nothing. Yet.

Time out: Because of all this fear, furor and word fog, us Medicare-types have become sitting ducks for scammers (“I’m calling from Medicare, and because of the Affordable Care Act, we need to verify your Medicare number…”), thieves (“I’m calling from Medicare to get your checking account number, so we can bill you electronically for your Part B, C or D Plans…”) and unethical service providers (“…and for a mere $100 we will navigate the Affordable Care Act on your behalf.”). All lies.

Usually it’s a phone call, maybe an email, maybe something in the mail or even something that a well-meaning neighbor or family member gives you or tells you about, but it doesn’t really matter, because a scam is a scam, no matter where it comes from; so, listen: If you’re on Medicare, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that you need to do, change or NOT do because of the ACA.

Nothing.

Now, a couple of paragraphs up, I said “…nothing. Yet.” What’s up? Is there or isn’t there?

The “yet” just refers to the fact that you are going to need to make a decision about your Part D or Advantage Plan between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, just like you’ve been doing: You’ll have to decide to keep what you have or change to a different Plan, just like you’ve been doing, and whatever you decide will kick in on Jan. 1, 2013.

If you’re new to Medicare and have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t panic because we’ll help you make sense out of it between now and then, but the rest of us just need to stay calm and keep doing what we’ve been doing, more-or-less the same way we’ve been doing it at, the same time.

Business as usual.

You certainly aren’t required to like all this, or think it’s just the best way there could ever be to deliver health insurance, or maybe you do! Fine, whatever, I don’t care. I do care that you do what you need to do, when you need to do it, and don’t get scammed in the process – or pay somebody who has memorized a lot of “buzz words” to help you navigate something that doesn’t have to be navigated, beyond the usual “open enrollment” insanity.

In a way, I suppose, we should probably feel gratified that enough of us have lived long enough to make Medicare a topic of national debate, which is certainly a tribute to healthcare, if not “health insurance;” indeed, so many of us have irresponsibly neglected to die on schedule that the future of Social Security is (or should be) a topic of national debate! What do you want from me, an apology for not dying? Don’t hold your breath.

I don’t know what the answers or outcomes to all of this hoop-tee-doo will be, but derailing people with lies, half-truths or scams doesn’t help. If you get anything on the phone, on email or in the mail that scares you or makes you wonder, call any of the numbers at the end of this column and ask. We won’t try to sell you anything, because we don’t have anything to sell, and we’ll tell you the truth, whether you like it or not.

OK? I don’t care who is doing a “Cheshire cat” routine in what political office on Jan. 1, 2013 – You are still going to have Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D or Advantage plans to deal with on Jan. 1, so pay attention between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, because plans change, formularies change and premiums change; politicians usually don’t.

Mark Harvey is the director of Senior Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at harvemb@dshs.wa.gov or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.