Senior Medicare Patrol Newsletter - January 2014

January, 2014 Monthly News You Can Use

Using Your Medicare Benefits in 2014

          We’re well into the new year so it’s time to make sure we get acquainted with updates to Medicare information. 

  1. If  you changed Prescription Drug Plans or Medicare Advantage plans be sure to carry your new ID card with you when you go the drug store or a medical provider.  Senior Medicare Patrol suggests that you do not carry your plan ID cards or your Medicare card with you on a daily basis, but only when you know you’ll need to use them.  Your Medicare card has yours or your spouse’s Social Security number on it and your other plan ID cards may contain your birth date and other personal information.  If you lose these cards you could become a victim of identity theft or financial scams. 
  2. Take the opportunity to avoid medical problems by having preventive tests or screenings that are fully covered by Medicare.  Ask your doctor which screenings you could benefit from and when you can schedule them.  Besides keeping yourself healthier, you’ll avoid frequent doctor visits and all those insurance statements to wade through, if you find a health problem early and can take care of it. 
  3. Read up on improved Medicare benefits for 2014 – better coverage for outpatient mental health services and reduced costs in the coverage gap in Medicare Prescription Drug Plans.  
  4. Read your new “2014 Medicare & You” handbook.  If you were on Medicare last fall, a handbook was mailed.  You can read it online at www.Medicare.gov (go to “forms, help, resources” tab).  You can download an eBook version or get a printed version in large print, Spanish or Braille.  If you prefer to listen to the information you can order a free CD or listen to a podcast.  Or you can watch videos at www.YouTube.com/chshhsgov .  

Your Medicare Claims for Medical Equipment Used at Home

          Almost everyone who uses Medicare health insurance will probably agree that reading their Medicare Summary Notices (explanation of benefits) and understanding exactly what is covered isn’t always easy.  Medicare redesigned their notices and Iowans started receiving these last fall. The new notices are easier to read and understand.  Even so, we may not understand what happened to our claims when they are denied. 

            Just like any health insurance there are a lot of rules in Medicare.  If you

  • use “durable medical equipment” like a walker, wheelchair, CPAP, diabetes testing supplies,  home oxygen and other equipment  and
  • you receive a Medicare statement that payment was denied because it isn’t covered

it may be due to confusion about Medicare rules.  Don’t panic!  Check it out first! 

Starting in January, 2014, Medicare is closely reviewing claims to be sure the person who prescribed medical equipment or supplies for you, is approved to do so.  Physical and occupational therapists, chiropractors, optometrists and medical equipment companies all provide health services and treatment that may be covered by Medicare, but they are limited on what types of prescriptions they can write.   So if you receive notice of a denied claim for medical equipment, check with the medical provider who sent in the claim;  they are listed on your Medicare notice.  Ask them if there is a correction they can make in order to get your Medicare claim approved. 

Mailings about Medicare Changes

            You open your mail box and what do you see?  Often it’s a handful of what many call “junk mail.”  Most of it you know right away when you look at the envelope whether you want to throw it in the trash can.  But as you shuffle through the stack, you might see something about “Medicare” or “changes” in Medicare.  Medicare is likely to be pretty important to you, so you’ll pick out that postcard or letter and take a look.  Here are some tips to help you decide whether the mail is from Medicare or whether it’s from an insurance company or marketing company. 

  • Look for the “Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services” (CMS) name and logo.  CMS mails an annual handbook about changes.  (If you signed up for an electronic version of the handbook you won’t receive the printed handbook.) 
  • Look for a statement, maybe in smaller print, that says “not endorsed by” or “not affiliated with” a “government agency” or “federal agency.”  This means the mailing is from a private business that would like to give you information about health insurance.    
  • Look for a return card that has blanks for you to fill in about yourself and your spouse like your ages or birth dates.  Medicare will never ask you to return mail with personal information in exchange for giving you facts about the yearly changes in your Medicare. 

It’s important to notice the differences, so you can decide whether the mail is from a private company which is

Working to get your attention in order to do business with you or whether it is an official mailing from Medicare.  If you know the difference, you can decide what to do with the information. 

            If you can’t locate your “2014 Medicare & You” handbook, call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or go online at www.Medicare.gov and click on the “forms, help, resources” tab. 

Tax-Related Identity Theft

            The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a nationwide reminder about the threat of identity theft by thieves who use your stolen Social Security number to

  • file for a tax refund,
  • obtain a job or
  • run a financial scam on you.

If you carry your Social Security card and Medicare card in your wallet, a thief can get everything they need to operate a scam through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an employer, your bank or credit card company.  You should not routinely carry those cards with you daily.  A thief can also contact you by email with a fake message that looks like it comes from the IRS.  One of the few things about scam emails that you can be certain about ----- the IRS will not send you an e-mail asking for personal information – never!    

            However, if you receive a letter from the IRS that says there is a problem with the tax return you filed because a return had already been filed for this year.  Or if the letter says you had wages you didn’t report but you haven’t been working – these are clues that your identity might have been stolen.  You should contact IRS per the instructions in your letter immediately.  There is more information about dealing with identity theft at the FTC website www.consumerftc.gov.  

  • News prepared by Deb Yankey, Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol Coordinator, Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A), Waterloo, IA,  dyankey@nei3a.org

 

 

 

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