Recently, we have received a number of reports of door-to-door solicitors trying to sign people up for Medicare plans. Some have even gone so far as to attempt to disparage our Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP), saying we leave people confused and uncertain.
We want seniors and those who support seniors to know about these folks and to take caution. Direct and door-to-door marketing may be a violation of marketing guidelines under Medicare. It’s very simple, most companies CANNOT directly sell Medicare products by calling beneficiaries on the phone or by going to their homes, unless invited to do so.
Open enrollment periods for Medicare vary depending upon circumstances. The targets for these aggressive sellers appear to be residents who are soon to be eligible for Medicare. One of these companies in the Marshall area also happens to sell other products like life insurance.
We have encountered other companies who also sell trust and estate planning, alongside selling insurance and being a Medicare Advantage, Part D, and Medigap plan enrollment agent. We would call this a “Red Flag” situation – something to watch out for when making this type of financial decision. If your lawyer, your Medicare plan provider, financial planner, and life insurance agent are all the same person or work for the same company – THAT’S a RED FLAG.
There are many reputable, honest, and legitimate agencies that offer Medicare plans right here in our community – that don’t sell their products door-to-door and that follow the guidelines set up by Medicare. The Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program, offered at sites throughout the county, provides unbiased counseling and assistance on ALL available Medicare plans without consideration of commission or benefit. If you are going through an agent, choose a local company, with an office in our community. We also recommend checking them out with friends and online.
Besides the monetary benefit for these unethical companies, why are they selling door-to-door? Access to your Medicare Number or personal information is valuable fodder for these charlatans. It sets up an opportunity for identity theft and fraud. Don’t EVER give out this information to someone who calls you on the phone or shows up at your door!
Some of these Medicare fraudsters will also promise you things if you give them your Medicare Number – FREE wheelchairs, back braces, diabetic shoes, etc. Don’t fall for their games…don’t do it! Legitimate Medicare Agents cannot make unsolicited calls, leave materials at your door, send unsolicited text messages, or leave voicemail messages. They may not contact you without you giving permission first or you contacting them. It is illegal and unethical!
Since it IS legal for Medigap sellers to contact you, some less reputable sellers will use Medigap information to get their foot in the door, and then use “bait and switch” sales tactics to change the subject to Medicare Advantage plans. They often ask: “Would you like to know about plans with dental and vision coverage?” By answering yes, you have given them permission to try to sell you an Advantage plan. This isn’t illegal, but it’s unethical sales behavior. Shame on them.
Has one of these folks visited you? Have questions about Medicare? Let us help stop these illegal solicitors. First, don’t answer your door or give them any information. Second, if they leave information, contact your local Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program at 1-800-803-7174. Don’t try to engage them, take their pictures, or get other information from them. You can also contact the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services at 1-877-999-6442 to file a complaint.
CareWell Services is your area agency on aging serving Barry and Calhoun counties, and the local Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program. Call us, we’re here to help!