2009-11-20 / Top Stories

Be Cautious For Open Enrollment

Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn today warned senior citizens to protect themselves against high-pressure and misleading sales tactics some times aimed at seniors during Medi care Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug plan open enrollment periods.

Open enrollment runs from Novem - ber 15 through December 31 each year. During this time, beneficiaries may change prescription drug plans, change Medicare Advantage plans, return to original Medicare, or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan for the first time. Enrollment changes take effect on January 1.

"Most insurance agents and brokers are reputable, but there have been far too many cases where senior citizens have been targeted by unscrupulous sales people using misleading practices. Agents and brokers will face fines and possible revocations of their licenses if they engage in improper sales practices," Wrynn said.

Wrynn urged senior citizens to keep in mind the following guidelines: Un - solicited contacts are improper; federal regulations prohibit agents from contacting customers without express invitation. This includes door-to-door sales, unsolicited e-mails and phone calls.

Ask a relative or friend to be with you: Selecting an insurance policy can be a complicated process for anyone. It's a good idea to have a relative or trusted friend with you whenever meeting with an insurance agent.

Medicare has no sales agents: Medi - care does not send "representatives" to solicit business. Be especially wary of any sales person who claims to represent the program.

There's no free lunch: Federal regulations prohibit the offer of a free meal in exchange for listening to a Medicare Advantage sales presentation.

Read and understand the policy: Seniors considering changing their Medicare Advantage or Medicare Pres cription Drug plans should be a - ware that not all policies are the same. They should carefully consider their needs and how a particular policy would meet those needs, making sure their providers accept the plan prior to enrolling.

Senior citizens who suspect they have been subjected to improper sales practices should contact the Insurance Department, the New York State Off - ice for the Aging, or their local Heal th Insurance Information Coun sel ing and Assistance Program (HIICAP).

Detailed information about Medi - care Advantage and Medicare Pres - cription Drug plans may be obtained directly from Medicare by contacting 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or www.medicare.gov, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for assistance.

Consumers with general insurance questions may contact the Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bur - eau between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Mon day through Friday, toll-free at 800-342-3736. Information is also available on the Department's website, www.ins.state.ny.us.

Consumers with questions about how to file a complaint may call the Department at 800-342-3736 or 212- 480-6400.

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