Cheryl saw the TV commercial with Captain Kirk (aka William Shatner) and did as he suggested: she called that Medicare assistance number on the screen to get those “extra benefits “she was missing out on. She ignored the fact that William Shatner is an actor and gets paid for doing those commercials. She really wanted and deserved those “extra benefits”, whatever they were.
When Cheryl called the number on the screen, a very nice lady answered the phone and told her she could get more benefits by switching to a different Medicare Advantage plan. Cheryl thanked the lady and called her daughter to share the good news about her new dental and hearing aid benefits. Her daughter asked her more about the new benefits and said: “Mom, I know how much you love your doctors, are they all ‘in-network’ in your new plan. Will you be able to continue seeing them with your new plan”? Cheryl replied that of course her doctors accept her new plan just like before. The nice lady would have told if that were not the case. No need to worry.
About ten days later, Cheryl received her new healthcare card in the mail with a new primary care physician typed on the card. Confident it was a mistake, Cheryl called the “Medicare assistance number” again to have them correct the primary care physician. She was told that they couldn’t help her and advised her to call her new insurance company’s customer service number. When Cheryl called the customer service number, she was told that her doctors were NOT in network and that she had to choose a new primary provider and find new specialists as well.
As she went through the new list of primary care and specialists she noted not one that she recognized. This made her sick to her stomach. If she wanted to continue to see her familiar health care providers, she would have to pay on her own; her new insurance was not accepted at any of them. Cheryl had been seeing her doctors for years and wasn’t comfortable changing to new doctors she wasn’t familiar with.
Not knowing what to do, Cheryl called her daughter, in tears, and relayed the information to her. Her daughter asked her if she was told by that very nice lady on the phone that William Shatner suggested she call that she would have to change doctors. Cheryl was sure that her doctors were never brought up in the conversation. Her daughter reported the entire incident to her county’s district attorney’s office and was referred to Optimal Living to help her mom return to her original plan.
Fortunately for Cheryl, she discovered the problem early enough to change back to her original plan.
What Cheryl, and numerous others, did not realize, was that she was calling into a sales call center, not a Medicare assistance line. These “Medicare assistance lines” advertised around the clock during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period are all sales organizations that only get paid if you switch your plan—no matter what plan you currently are on. They will never confirm that the new plan is the best plan for you.
Cheryl, like others, trust that the celebrities on these advertisements are performing a community service. They are not. They are paid spokes persons selling Medicare plans.
If you or someone you know responded to one of these advertisements and switched your plan, you still have time to make one more change.
Medicare has an Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage members every year from January 1st to March 31st. This allows members the opportunity to make one change with an effective date of the first day of the month following their change request.
It’s always advisable to use a local agent or broker to answer your Medicare questions and help you make plan decisions based on your unique needs. If you don’t have a local Medicare insurance broker, please feel free to contact one of the listed Medicare Insurance providers on the AgeWise Colorado website.
Submitted by Connie Ward, Optimal Living