We’re in the midst of the Medicare Part D (prescription) open-enrollment period, which runs through Dec. 7. There are, however, other Medicare things we could talk about.

Let’s talk about saving money, both on a grand scale and on a personal level. On the grand scale, Medicare fraud costs us as a nation, billions of dollars each year. And it has become a moneymaker for crime of all sorts, from organized crime to independent scammers.

It can come in a variety of ways, such as scammers calling or emailing out of the blue to “confirm” your Medicare number, or billing your Medicare account for beds, wheelchairs, walkers and so on that you never ordered — or received.

The costs and dangers of identity theft through your Medicare number continues to climb. One way fraud is being slowed is by the issuance of our new Medicare numbers. (If you haven’t received your new card, it’s on the way). These new numbers have no correlation to our Social Security numbers — or to anything else, as far as I can see.

One way to safeguard is to review your Medicare summary notices and make sure what was billed to Medicare actually occurred. Another way is to report it even if you suspect fraud.

Reporting can be done by phone at 800-562-6900, or by going to Office of the Insurance Commissioner site at www.insurance.wa.gov.

You can also call either of the numbers at the end of this column and ask to speak to a SHIBA (Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors) representative.

One more thing about Medicare — more specifically about your card: A flier about this type of fraud makes this statement:

“Treat your Medicare and health insurance card like a credit card. Protect it. Do not give it out.”

Good advice!

Now to the personal level: Medicare Savings Plans (MSPs). While we periodically talk about these plans in this space, since we’re already thinking along Medicare lines, why not?

MSPs are plans that help pay costs for the Part B (outpatient services, clinics, etc.) premium — which as of right now is at $134/month for most of us — copays, deductibles and so on. There are different plans, so let’s look at general eligibility limits:

• If single: Income less than $1,386/month and assets less than $7,560

• If married: Income less than $1,872/month and assets less than $11,340

There are some “disregards,” so if you’re close to the amounts, still apply.

One more item: If you qualify for some of these programs you could also qualify for Medicare Part D (prescriptions) Extra Help, which helps with those costs.

For more information, again, give us a call and ask to talk to a SHIBA person, or just ask about these plans.

Information & Assistance

Long Beach: 642-3634

or 888-571-6558

Raymond: 942-2177

or 888-571-6557

www.o3a.org

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