BATON ROUGE, La – It’s the time of year when many people are picking their 2023 health plans. Unfortunately, this also is a peak time for scammers to take advantage of health plan shoppers and try to trick them into sharing personal, health or financial information.
“The biggest thing to keep in mind is that if something doesn’t feel right to you, just don’t engage,” said Kandyce Cowart, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Special Investigations manager. “It’s especially important to be wary if you get unexpected outreach like a cold call, text message, email or are approached in person by someone asking you for sensitive details like your health plan information, Social Security number or financial accounts.”
Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, 2022. During this time, Medicare-eligible people can enroll in individual Medicare plans. The Federal Trade Commission has reported that during the enrollment period, scammers will often call Medicare beneficiaries and pretend to be with a health plan, government agency or another familiar organization to get their personal data.
Healthcare.gov, the federal marketplace where people who do not get insurance through a job and don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid can buy individual health plans, began the annual Open Enrollment Period Nov. 1, which runs through Jan. 15, 2023. Many people in employer group plans also make their benefit selections during this time of year.
As you consider your health plan options, make sure you get help from trustworthy sources like licensed agents or by going directly to insurers or government agencies for assistance – and be suspicious of any offers of help you didn’t seek out, particularly if they try to charge you for their services, Cowart said.
“Don’t worry about seeming rude because if it’s a legitimate outreach, they will not mind if you take the time to verify they are who they tell you they are,” Cowart said. “There are many ways you can get help from experienced professionals during enrollment who will not charge you anything. So if you’re asked to pay, that should be a red flag.”
Tips to Avoid Common Enrollment Scams:
• Scammers will claim to be calling from the Medicare program or your health plan and tell you there is a problem with your coverage or that you couldn’t be enrolled in the plan you picked for 2023, then ask you to confirm your information. If you get a cold call like this, do not respond. Contact your health plan directly using the Customer Service number on your member ID card to ask if you need to do anything.
• Scammers also may claim to be reaching out on behalf of government agencies and tell you that you need to update your Medicare or Social Security number for their records. Government agencies will not cold call you, so do not share your information. If you need to update your records, contact the agency and ask about secure ways to do so.
• If you get outreach from someone claiming to call on behalf of your health care provider’s office or pharmacy, verify it’s really them before giving your insurance coverage, payment information or other details. That’s especially suspicious if the person is asking about something you’ve never discussed with your provider or pharmacist.
• Do not accept offers to have pills, creams, foot baths, braces or other medical supplies sent to you without talking to your health care provider. If these items show up at your home and you didn’t order them, don’t use them. Contact your health plan at the Customer Service number, which is usually on your member ID card, to make sure these items are not being billed through your insurance.
• If you get outreach pushing you to act quickly, before you have time to think through it or discuss it with others, that is likely a scam. This includes messages that your health insurance coverage will be dropped if you don’t provide payment information right away, or threats of legal action. You will typically get multiple notices if there is a problem with your health care coverage and will have a stated timeframe in which you can respond.
To promote fraud awareness, Blue Cross is sharing a video, “Mr. Jimmy’s Medicare Advantage Member Story.” (2:48) Mr. Jimmy and his sister, Donna, talk about what happened when his identity was stolen and how his Blue Cross agent, Hope, helped him stay covered.
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud or were approached by a scammer, you can report it online at Tips.FBI.Gov or IC3.Gov or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324). Blue Cross members can also make reports to the insurer’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-392-9249.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel has other videos about fraud prevention and various health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can connect with Blue Cross on social media @BCBSLA. Blue Cross posts often on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.
Get Help Picking a Plan
For Medicare plans: Blue Cross Medicare experts are available by phone to answer questions and help beneficiaries find a plan that best meets their needs. It doesn’t cost anything to work with an agent, and there is no obligation to enroll. To learn more about Medicare and Blue Cross plan options, or to connect with an agent, visit bcbslaplan.com/medicare or call 1-800-568-1417 (TTY 711). Agents are available 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days a week.
For Healthcare.gov plans: Need help reviewing your 2023 plan options? You can work with a licensed, experienced agent at no cost. Connect with one by visiting GetPlanOptions.com or calling 1-844-GET-BLUE (1-844-438-2583; TTY 711). Agents are available 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is no obligation to buy because you speak to an agent.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past four years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media @BCBSLA.
For accommodations of persons with special needs at meetings, call 1-833-219-7435 (TTY 711).
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana HMO offers Blue Advantage (HMO). Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, offers Blue Advantage (PPO).
Blue Advantage from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana HMO is an HMO plan with a Medicare contract. Blue Advantage from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is a PPO plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in either Blue Advantage plan depends on contract renewal.