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Medicare forum to help seniors avoid scams, consider health plans
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Medicare beneficiaries have become the target of several scam artists looking to obtain social security numbers via fraudulent phone calls. Fortunately, the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program is taking steps to help citizens avoid being conned.

“There is a concern that Medicare beneficiaries will become victims of the current phone scams,” said Sandy Ranzo-Howell, community education specialist and insurance counselor for HICAP. “Seniors are receiving calls telling them that because of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare is sending them a new card and the caller identifies himself being from Medicare and that he needs their Social Security number to verify they will receive a new card. Many seniors are falling for this scam.”

HICAP is working diligently to inform Medicare beneficiaries that as recipients of Medicare, they do not need to enroll in Covered California – the state’s insurance marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“If you have Medicare, you don’t need to do anything,” said Ranzo-Howell. “Medicare is not part of this insurance marketplace, and if you have Medicare, you are considered covered.”

According to HICAP, the ACA has expanded Medicare benefits for preventive care and drug coverage such as eliminating co-payments for many preventive services and offering discounts on brand-name prescription drugs and subsidies on generic drugs.

“We’re just here to help beneficiaries navigate through Medicare, which at times can get kind of confusing,” said Ranzo-Howell. “We offer a variety of free services for beneficiaries of all ages such as community education and insurance advice.”

With Medicare’s open enrollment beginning on Tuesday, HICAP counselors and representatives are helping people throughout Stanislaus County review and compare their health plans by hosting several Medicare Advantage Plan forums throughout the month of October at local senior centers.

“It’s more of an informational event,” said Ranzo-Howell. “We’ll have representatives there to answer their questions. We’re looking forward to seeing as many beneficiaries as possible and look forward to answering their questions.”

The Medicare Advantage Plan forum in Turlock will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Oct. 24 at the Turlock Senior Center, located at 1191 Cahill St.