03/08/07 — Officials caution seniors on Medicare Advantage plans

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Officials caution seniors on Medicare Advantage plans

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 8, 2007 1:53 PM

Wayne County Medicare beneficiaries, especially senior citizens, should exercise caution if they receive a call asking them to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan, local officials say.

Wayne County Services on Aging Director Yvonne McLamb said she received several calls recently from local residents receiving high-pressured sales calls concerning the purchase of Medicare Advantage, which includes health care plans, savings accounts and other medical services.

The sales calls are coming from about a dozen insurance companies that have announced their intention to sell these type of plans. The companies use aggressive marketing tactics that could mislead consumers, Mrs. McLamb said. North Carolina Department of Insurance Commissioner Jim Long has issued warnings across the state through the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program that many Medicare beneficiaries are receiving bad financial advice from these salespeople, which causes some senior citizens to make a decision that is not in their best interest.

Mrs. McLamb said local residents have told her that a salesperson will make the offer sound so good that they will buy the plan. Once that person receives the Medicare Advantage plan paperwork, he or she might want to cancel, but the providers don't make that a simple option. Some individuals have also complained that they have been disenrolled from their Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B or employer retiree plans when they purchased a Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage plans include Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Participating Provider Option (PPO), Medicare Medical Savings Accounts and Private-Fee-for-Service products, but consumers should be warned that doctors and hospitals do not accept all Medicare Advantage plans. Also, Medigap or Medicare supplement policies do not coordinate with any Medicare Advantage plan, according to state Seniors' Health Insurance Information Pro-gram officials.

If a salesperson calls concerning the purchase of a Medicare Advantage plan, state officials and Mrs. McLamb said a senior citizen of any other Medicare beneficiary should not agree to an appointment without getting the salesperson's name, the name of his or her company, a phone number at which the person can be reached and the exact name of the plan the salesperson is trying to sell.

With that information, Mrs. McLamb said a person can call the local Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program office at 731-1591 and ask for either Mrs. McLamb or Anne Burnette to verify if that salesperson is a licensed agent.

If a senior citizen does choose to set up an appointment with a Medicare Advantage plan salesperson, Mrs. McLamb said she suggests taking a trusted friend or family member to help ask questions and take notes.