The State Department of Insurance says the Medicare open enrollment period is a time when con artists will step up their efforts to take advantage of seniors. The period is October 15 through December 7.

Spokesman Travis Ford says scams that target seniors are often fairly uncomplicated. A caller might ask a Medicare recipient if he or she is happy with his or her current plan, and offer to then renew it if the recipient will only provide credit card information. Some of what he calls “horror stories” of fraud have included aggressive door-to-door or phone solicitations, and people being followed to nursing homes or even, in one case, a cemetery.

Ford says renewal notices will arrive in the mail, as they would with any insurance policy. Personal information should not be given out over the phone, particularly to someone who calls looking for it. In general, he says, agents may only discuss Medicare products during appointments arranged with the permission of the consumer.

Ford also notes that a recent letter from Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff and a Medicare official asked home health workers to report insurance agents and other salespeople who violate solicitation rules. It included a list of things agents cannot do:

  • Claim to represent or be endorsed by Medicare
  • Solicit door-to-door
  • Solicit using unwanted emails, text messages or voice mails
  • Approach people in common areas like parking lots, hallways and sidewalks
  • Pitch products in health care settings like hospital waiting areas, exam rooms, patient rooms and pharmacy counters
  • Set up an appointment to discuss Medicare, then sell unrelated products like life insurance or annuities

He encourages Medicare recipients to take advantage of the CLAIM program offered by his Department and Medicare. It is the state’s health insurance assistance program, offering free and unbiased information.

For more information on using CLAIM, visit its website.