Originally created 06/20/06

Seniors get pressured



Aggressive sales tactics from those pushing Medicare Advantage plans weeks before an enrollment deadline have some advocates concerned about seniors who are picking plans.

The 41 plans, many of which are managed care forms of Medicare, are all legitimate and might offer a better choice for some seniors than traditional Medicare, said Lauren Spivey, elder rights program manager for the CSRA Regional Development Center Area Agency on Aging.

Some of the plans would charge a small co-pay for an office visit, for example, where traditional Medicare pays about 80 percent and the patient is responsible for the rest, she said. But many seniors, particularly those whose other costs are being picked up by Medicaid, might want to be careful about picking such a plan, Mrs. Spivey said.

"We're finding that a lot of those folks, especially low-income folks that might be served by Medicaid as well as Medicare, they have been enrolled and it's really presented a problem for them because all of a sudden they're finding themselves with co-pays to go to the doctor, where before they didn't have it," she said. "That's not an advantage, no pun intended, for them."

Some of these salespeople are setting up at health fairs, for example, and making their pitches there, Mrs. Spivey said.

"They'll target certain areas and they'll try to find places where seniors are in larger numbers and (then) go in and try and sell them these plans," she said.

"The problem is a lot of the information that would be pertinent to you and I making an educated decision is not covered," she said.

Some are making sales calls to seniors but some are just going door-to-door, Mrs. Spivey said.

St. John Towers tried to prepare its residents by doing a lot of education beforehand, said administrator Greg Capers.

"We kept our residents pretty well informed, we think," he said. "Now there have been a couple of reports of people calling and we discourage very much people opening up any kind of a dialogue with them."

The deadline for this open enrollment period is June 30, with the next beginning Jan. 1, Mrs. Spivey said.

But seniors shouldn't feel rushed to make a decision on it, and they should ask all thequestions they want to feel comfortable that they understand what they are getting into, she said.

"It's a highly highly complicated issue," Mr. Capers said. "During the registration process and learning process we did all we could but it is very, very complicated and it is easy for someone at any age to be confused by it."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

NO SALE


The deadline for the open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage plans is midnight June 30.

Some seniors are seeing aggressive sales tactics from those plans. Here are some things to keep in mind from the CSRA Area Agency on Aging:

- Be skeptical of claims that the plans will have few costs, or that enrollment is required to apply for subsidized housing. Be wary of anyone who won't give a business card or include a name and contact number with their information;


- Listen carefully to the salesperson and ask questions until you are satisfied;


- Have a trusted family member, church member or neighbor review information with you before making a decision;


- Make sure you know all of your costs and what the Medicare Part B premium will be;


- If Medicaid covers all or part of your costs, be very careful of signing up for plans that will add co-pays and costs you didn't have before;


- Make sure your doctor is part of the plan, as some plans have restricted lists of doctors and hospitals. Don't sign until you know what doctors and hospitals come with the plan.