With an agenda featuring a discussion on changes to Medicare and helpful tips on how to avoid identity theft, it was no surprise nearly 3,400 Wyoming AARP members joined an AARP Wyoming’s TeleTown Hall Oct. 16. The event was moderated by Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck.
“It was a very successful event,” says AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway. “Our experts did a great job sharing their knowledge of Medicare with our members. Our members also came forward with good questions that showed a willingness to research the best options for their situation.”
Helping Wyomingites to Understand Their Medicare Options
Kelly Wicks of the Wyoming State Health Insurance Information Program had a good day on Monday. Wicks said she was fresh off a day spent saving seniors money as she and her organization counseled Wyomingites on the most appropriate plans for their needs.
“I was able to save over $12,000 for the nine people I talked to today,” Wicks told those on the call. “We are using the plan finder to see what options are available in the state for our clients. There is no guessing, no magic to it and we are able to make sure people are getting their medications covered.”
The Wyoming State Health Insurance Information Program (WSHIIP) is a federally mandated program, which helps seniors and others on Medicare understand their rights and answer their questions. Wicks says her organization has trained counselors who offer clients an understanding of Medicare, Medicare Supplements, or Medicaid and the service is free by calling 1-800-856-4398.
Wicks says her organization can check to see if clients qualify for low-income assistance with federal healthcare programs, or advantage plans available in Albany, Crook, Fremont, Sheridan, Natrona, Weston, or Uinta Counties.
“We can help with questions on claims or appeals,” she says.”We are happy to talk to you about your Medicare benefits. We want to help you know what do you need at that point.”
Medicare Changes - New Cards Protect Your Identity
The federal government is making changes to Medicare cards in light of identity theft concerns. Currently, Medicare cards contain a client’s social security number. Starting in April of 2018 the federal government will begin sending out new Medicare cards, which will not contain social security numbers.
Gloria Baca, of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (also known as CMS), tells participants on the call that it is likely the new cards will come to Wyoming later in the process - perhaps sometime in 2019. The CMS expert believes the process for getting new cards to everyone in the state should take about five weeks.
“I would think once you begin to notice advertising from the federal government in the media, that might be a sign that your new cards are coming in the mail,” Baca says.
Once the new cards are received, Baca says there will be a 21-month period where physicians and patients can bill either the old social security number or the new number. The cards themselves will look similar to the old cards and there is no requirement to sign the new card. Baca asks that seniors make sure their address is correct with the Social Security Administration as the address they have on-file is the address where the new cards will be sent.
She also cautioned that there are already scammers trying to take advantage of the change. Baca says no one at Medicare will call seniors about their cards as the transition is taking place and all correspondence will take place through the mail. She also urges seniors to shred or cut up their old Medicare cards to protect their identity.
In terms of coverage, Baca says there are no real changes to Medicare for 2018, although one drug plan in Wyoming actually saw its premiums drop this year.
AARP Wyoming hosts regular TeleTown Halls throughout the year to provide useful and current information for our members. The next TeleTown Hall will be in December as Wyoming Governor Matt Mead will be speaking with, and taking questions from, AARP Wyoming members.