Scammers target senior citizens' medical coverage

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina has almost 750,000 senior citizens, and many of them are in the process of making critical choices about their medicare coverage.

December is an open enrollment period for Medicare Part "D." and for scammers, that means open season on seniors

When it comes to health care, seniors have all the challenges they can handle. The last thing any of them needs is an encounter with someone operating outside the law, but Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer says it might be happening to older South Carolinians who are trying to sort out their prescription drug plans.

"Anytime you get a few calls, you realize there's a lot of people that don't know to call and complain. So we want to prevent anyone else from being taken advantage of," says Bauer.

Bauer oversees the state's Office on Aging. It's been getting reports that some seniors have been targeted by phone callers posing as Medicare employees.

The callers ask for personal financial information or payments to sign up for Medicare Part "D" plans.

"With 727,000 seniors in South Carolina, there are going to be people who become victims. There are going to be people that give out information and have their identities used in a very inappropriate way and lose financial means over it," says Bauer.

If you're a senior, Medicare representatives can call you to tell you about prescription drug plans but not if you're on the Do Not Call Registry. Representatives cannot call to sign you up and can only enroll you if you call them. Providers cannot ask for payment over the phone or on the Internet. They can't come to your home unless invited, and there's no fee to enroll.

"That generation tends to be very trustworthy. For instance, they will follow anything their doctor tells them whether or not they may for instance have some disagreements with some medication or whatever, but the doctor gave it to them so they won't challenge the physician. So they are also pretty easy to fool sometimes. A lot of them are isolated," says Wendy Jones of Senior Resources in Columbia.

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