What you need to know about Medicare Advantage and how to avoid senior healthcare scams
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Kevin McCormally: I am Kevin McCormally of Kiplinger's. I am here with Kim Lankford, the Insurance Editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, to talk about problems with Medicare Advantage plans. Kim, I understand that there were some problems with this insurance that goes along with Medicare called Medicare Advantage. First, what is Medicare Advantage? Kim Lankford: Well, Medicare Advantage is lot like the old-styled Medicare HMOs, kind of the next generation. It's a way to get coverage through a private insurer rather than through Medicare. So, instead of having to sign up for Medicare plus a Medigap policy plus a Part D Prescription Drug Plan, you get all of your coverage in one policy. Kevin McCormally: So, what's the downside? Kim Lankford: The upside is sometimes the premiums are very low. The downside is sometimes you have extra added pocket expenses that you wouldn't otherwise have, especially for some big ticket items like hospitalization and chemotherapy. So, you really need to be careful about the total cost. Kevin McCormally: And what about the sales abuses? Kim Lankford: Well, that's something that's really been heating up over the past year or so. Insurance companies get a lot of money from government subsidies for signing people lot for Medicare Advantage plans. As a result, they pay agents hefty commissions for signing people up. And as a result of that, many agents have been pushing this to people who may not really realize some of the downsides. Sometime they are even signing people up without their knowledge. Kevin McCormally: Wait a minute! How can you sign somebody up for insurance without the knowledge? Don't they have to write a check to pay for it? Kim Lankford: Normally you would, but Medicare Advantage is unusual. Your Medicare Advantage premiums, if you have any, are deducted from your Social Security check. So many times, you might have no idea you are in this new policy until you go to fill a prescription or go to the doctor and you realize you don't have the coverage you thought you had. Kevin McCormally: Okay, if you find that you are in that situation, what can you do? Kim Lankford: If you find that you have been fraudulently enrolled, you can change your policy at any time or go back to original Medicare. The key thing is to do is get help from the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, www.shiptalk.org or call 800-Medicare to get some help. Kevin McCormally: Thank you very much, Kim.