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Stephanie Bias, coordinator for the NC Senior Medicare Patrol (NCSMP) Program and Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), a division of the NC Department of Insurance, appeared on WIZS Town Talk Wednesday at 11 a.m. Michele Brigandi, aging program coordinator with the Kerr-Tar Agency on Aging, facilitated the segment.
This edition of Town Talk is a paid advertising sponsorship with the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments.
With Medicare’s 2021 open enrollment period beginning Thursday, October 15 and ending Monday, December 7, 2020, Bias said programs such as SHIIP provide much-needed assistance to beneficiaries.
“SHIIP provides education, outreach and counseling to NC’s Medicare beneficiaries on how to enroll, how to choose secondary insurance behind Medicare and how to find out if you’re eligible for extra health programs,” Bias explained.
NC currently has over 2 million Medicare beneficiaries, according to Bias, ranging from those 65 and older to those on disability or with certain chronic health conditions.
“Our role is to educate you so that you make the best-informed choice for your particular situation,” Bias stated. “We are not insurance agents, nor do we recommend companies or plans. We educate you about what is out there.”
While SHIIP assists with the enrollment process, Bias said NCSMP helps to prevent fraud “to ensure our benefits stay solvent, and we become good stewards of our Medicare.”
Bias reported that Medicare fraud has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and said people should diligently protect their personal information.
“People may knock on your door, for example, and say that they are there to test you for coronavirus and need to see your Medicare card. Don’t let these people in, don’t let them swab your nose and don’t show them your card,” Bias implored. “It is a scam, and it is fraud.”
Bias explained the intent in this scam is to record your Medicare number to sell to others that can then use the number to receive services in your name.
While changed from a beneficiary’s social security number to a randomly generated mix of numbers and letters in recent years, Bias said an individual’s identifying Medicare number still links to a specific account and is subject to fraud.
“Another scam is to tell you that there is a ground-level secret society that you should invest money in, and when the cure or vaccine comes to fruition [for COVID], you’re going to profit. There is no such thing as a ground-level secret society,” Bias said.
Bias also warned against opening any emails or online attachments regarding Medicare, stating opening such links could expose computers to viruses and fraud opportunities. Phone calls from Medicare are also highly unlikely and should be questioned.
With questions about Medicare or for coordinating sites in your county, NC SHIIP can be reached online at www.ncshiip.com or toll-free Monday – Friday (except state holidays) from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at 1-855-408-1212.
When speaking to an enrollment representative, Bias said recipients should have a list of all current medications and issued Medicare card available.
To hear the interview in its entirety, go to WIZS.com and click on Town Talk.
(This edition of Town Talk is part of a paid advertising sponsorship with the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments.)