This year’s deadline for Medicare open enrollment is Wednesday; much earlier than in the past when it continued through December 31. The Insurance Department is reminding Missouri’s senior citizens not to let it pass without acting.
The Department is also reminding consumers to take advantage of its CLAIM program. “CLAIM” stands for Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri. Spokesman Travis Ford says it is there to take some confusion out of what many think is a daunting task. “No products are sold. Nobody’s going to try to convince you of anything but the options that are available to you.” He says CLAIM is available over the phone or in person; whichever is preferred.
Ford says since open enrollment began October 15, CLAIM has helped more than 6,500 Missourians at over 100 enrollment events across the state. The Department says in some specific cases, it has made a great difference in a person’s life:
A Kansas City woman, after talking with a CLAIM counselor, discovered she was paying for two separate Medicare policies, and one of them was unnecessary. In addition, she determined she was eligible for the Extra Help program and the Medicare Savings Program. By canceling the unnecessary policy and qualifying for the assistance programs, the woman will save $441 per month.
A St. Louis woman came in with four insurance plans. A counselor pointed out that she was significantly over-insured. The woman ended up canceling all four policies and switching to more suitable plans. She will save $211 per month.
A St. Louis retiree was paying $1,200 per month for health coverage through his former employer. Consulting with a CLAIM counselor showed that he and his wife would be better off buying a combination of Medicare plans, which they decided to do, saving $600 per month.
As open enrollment draws near its close, Ford cautions that last-minute scams ramp up by those trying to exploit senior citizens. He says most agents and plan sales people are honest, “but there are those, it is a fact, that want to take advantage of seniors. So, you need to use a trusted resource like the CLAIM program, or an insurance agent that you know personally or has been recommended to you by someone you trust.”
Ford urges those who think they have encountered an agent that was not honest or competent to contact the Department and file a complaint.
The Department is also always looking for individuals to help support CLAIM. Ford says the program has a small, full-time support staff and a large, statewide network of volunteers. “We encourage people to sign up as volunteers. It’s a great way to spend your retirement. If you’re a retired person, you get to help people your age and older make important decisions and help them understand very complex issues in their life that are sometimes difficult to understand.”
To find out more about CLAIM, call (800) 390-3330 or visit its website at missouriclaim.org.
AUDIO: Mike Lear reports – 1:00