Medicare Extends Open Enrollment for Hurricane-Affected Beneficiaries

Medicare Extends Open Enrollment for Hurricane-Affected Beneficiaries

As Hurricane Sandy has impacted millions of people, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended the Annual Election Period (also known as Open Enrollment) past Dec 7 for affected beneficiaries. This extension helps makes sure that everyone has adequate time and resources to make good choices for their 2013 health coverage. CMS still encourages beneficiaries if possible to make their choice before Dec 7 to ensure their new coverage starts January 1. Yet, affected beneficiaries who miss the deadline, can call Medicare’s 24 hour beneficiary line anytime at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227). Medicare’s customer service representatives can review plan options and complete enrollments over the phone.

Also, the Department of Justice recently sent out a warning on hurricane-related scams. Regrettably, when such disasters happen, scams often arise.  Scammers often jump on opportunities to take advantage of people in vulnerable situations, and after a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, people are definitely vulnerable. Some Senior Medicare Patrol projects around the country have already reported telemarketing scams, including several where callers are claiming to be from Social Security and asking for Social Security numbers. In one incident, a woman received a call informing her that her husband’s Social Security payments would be delayed due to computer damage from the hurricane, unless she provided him with his Social Security number. Luckily this woman had heard the warnings of such scams from her local SMP, hung up and reported the incident. To prevent others for falling for similar scams, this is a good time to remind beneficiaries, families and caregivers to be extra vigilant, and that Medicare and Social Security do not call people asking for their personal information.

If you come across or suspect any scams, please contact our Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) at 1-855-613-0780.

Also, see CMS’ memo and frequently asked questions (PDF) on this extension.

Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.

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