Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage and Part D will be receiving important information from their plans before the end of the month. All Advantage and Part D plans must send out their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) before the end of October. I have heard from several clients that they have received phone calls or mailings telling them to be on the lookout for important mail from their Advantage plan.
These alerts to Medicare Advantage plan members are very important this year because they can only move to another plan between November 15th and December 31st. After January 1st, people enrolled in an Advantage plan or Part D will be stuck with their plan for all of 2011 (unless they want to drop their Advantage plan and return to Medicare). In past years, people could make one change to their Medicare Advantage coverage between January 1st and March 31st. This “Open Enrollment Period” has been canceled. It is gone. So seniors had better pay attention now.
BEWARE OF SOME MAIL.
I have heard from several people that they received mailings that were very confusing. A client in Green Valley emailed me about a mailing he received that said he “must respond” to see if he qualifies for certain benefits. He said he thought this mailing might be from Medicare, but he wasn’t sure. He wanted to know if he needed to respond to this mailing. I asked him to send me the card so I could look at it.
Last week I met with a woman who is turning 65 soon and she had received a similar confusing post card. She told me she did respond to the card because she really thought it had something to do with qualifying for Medicare benefits.
When I received the mailing from my Green Valley client it was clear to me that this postcard, with official-sounding language, was just a marketing piece. And the woman who replied to a similar piece of mail had already been contacted by an insurance agent. An agent showed up at this lady’s house (!!!) and said, “You asked for more information, so here I am”.
The point of this story is that Medicare beneficiaries and people soon-to-be on Medicare need to look very closely at their mail. Anyone enrolled in Part D or Medicare Advantage should study what they receive from their plan. They know who this information is from, so this is not the problem. The problem mailings come from insurance agents and big agencies that are trying to sell something to seniors.
If you reply to a marketing piece (a post cared or letter), you are giving an insurance agent permission to call you. However, it is totally against Medicare rules for an insurance agent to show up at your house without an appointment!
Back to the mailing piece my client forwarded to me: The post card says, “Return this postage paid card to see if you are eligible for these benefits, or for a quicker response call 1-888-745-2320″. So I called this number…..(I’m writing this on Saturday evening)…and the answering machine message said, “Thank you for calling…. [a well-known Tucson insurance agency]. I guess this agency uses these mailings to generate leads for their agents.
I suppose these mailings are legal, but the people I’ve written about here are very smart people who were totally confused by what they received. Both were inclined to respond to the mailings – so I guess this is a very effective strategy for getting into seniors’ homes to sell any number of products.