Mark Harvey — Watch out for the “bad guys”


I suppose I should’ve seen this coming, but being the WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING that I am — and, as I humbly pointed out last week, I tend to assume that everyone else is as honorable, ethical and selfless as I am — thus, while I remain a WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING, I am also, it seems, an IDIOT.

While we’ve made it into the netherworld of overlapping “open enrollments” for (a) the Washington Health Benefits Exchange, and (b) Medicare Part D/Advantage plans, so, it appears, have the “bad guys.” The “bad guys” want to get your personal information, like your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account info, etc., so they can go forth and live the lifestyle to which they would like to become accustomed — at your expense. Assuming that your generosity for such things is limited, let’s slow down and think.

First, the Health Benefits Exchange — ACA, “ObamaCare,” whatever you’re calling it — can be found at www.wahealthplanfinder.org and that’s the ONLY one there is. Any other web address is BOGUS! Now, there are some sites that look and sound a lot like that, that are coming from licensed insurance agents who are attempting to increase business. Unfortunate, perhaps, but not illegal or dangerous (well, OK, perhaps they can be “dangerous” to your mental health, but …). And, in fact, if you wish to purchase health insurance through an agent/broker, please do so! Just understand what you’re doing and with whom.

So, any other web address is bogus, right? OK, now, while there are plenty of us who are willing to help you through this (if you want it), we will never charge you anything — ever. If somebody contacts you and offers to “help” for a price, decline — vigorously! Also, no one who works for the state or the feds will ever, ever, EVER charge you a fee for enrolling you into Medicaid!

IF you go into www.wahealthplanfinder.org and IF you enroll in a “Qualified Health Plan,” you will have to make an electronic payment for the first month’s premium. Other than that, money shouldn’t be changing hands — particularly, your hands! So, if that comes up, hang up.

Now, think and remember: You do NOT have to do anything quickly! If you’re working through either of these “open enrollments” and hit something that you don’t understand or doesn’t feel right, STOP. Nothing bad will happen, so just stop, then, take the time to do the research or get a hold of someone who can help you over the bump, then go back to it. Take your time, think and remember that these are just web sites — YES, they can smell fear, but NO, they can’t hurt you.

Remember, too, that this whole ObamaCare/ACA/Exchange thing is completely separate and different from the Medicare Part D/Advantage “open enrollment (which only goes through Dec. 7!). In fact, if you’re on Medicare, you don’t care about or qualify for the other, so if someone contacts you and starts blathering about what you (as a Medicare enrollee) need to do about ObamaCare, hang up or hit “DELETE” — vigorously!

Now, the Medicare piece: We get this every year, right? Slime balls are trying to capitalize on confusion in order to get your personal info. Case-in-point: a local gal got a call stating that her Medicare card would “expire” next year (NOTE: Medicare cards do NOT “expire” — rather like Twinkies), so wanted they to “verify” all kinds of information, including her bank account info. Smart Local Gal hung up.

If you get calls like that, or something in the mail, or an email, the same rule applies: You do NOT have to do anything in a hurry! And if “it” is legit, you have plenty of time to do some homework, then get back to it. Just not sure? I hear YOU! Some of that crap looks and sounds incredibly “official,” so just contact any of the numbers at the end of this column and talk it through. We have plenty of time to do whatever needs doing, so don’t fall for a “bum’s rush.”

Take your time. Think. Do the homework. If you need help — or an explanation or a translation or whatever — go to someone you trust and get it, because once your info (and, then, your money) is gone, it’s gone.

I know: I wish it were different, too, but I’m the resident IDIOT here!

And one of us is enough.

Mark Harvey is the director of 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.