Archive for September, 2012

Fraud is still out there.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Fraud is still out there.

Scammers continue to target seniors.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, a non-profit organization, conducted a survey of financial planners. In this survey they found that seniors who become victims of financial abuse lose an estimated $140,500.

The financial planners surveyed indicated that seniors who were victims of “unfair, deceptive or abusive practices” were often scammed through misleading marketing schemes. As we have said before, there is no such thing as a free lunch. But often that is just what the scammers do is lure seniors in with a seminar where they get a free lunch. The catch is that is really a sales pitch for misleading or fraudulent investments. 73% of the advisors surveyed said they knew a senior that was invited to this type of “free lunch” seminar.

The financial advisors also stated that they knew of seniors getting unsolicited pitches at home through the mail, e-mail, or the phone. While these type of investment scams, reverse mortgage scams and even sweepstakes scams are prevalent, sometimes seniors are also victims of fraud committed by someone they know. Of the planners surveyed, 35 % of them reported that they knew of at least one case were an elder was the victim of financial abuse by someone they knew. And another 20% said that the perpetrator was the guardian or Power of Attorney for the senior.

And the types of fraud don’t end there either. 83% of the advisors surveyed stated that seniors have been scammed by other financial advisors. Just like the “free lunch” seminars, there are financial advisors out there that have offered inappropriate financial products to seniors, as well as, misrepresented or omitted information about the costs and risks of those products.

Despite the fact that these types of fraud result in big losses for seniors, only 16% actually report the abuse to authorities. Many things can deter seniors from reporting crime, if the perpetrator is a family member they may not want to press charges or they may be afraid to report them. Some seniors may be embarrassed to admit they feel for a scheme, for fear people will think they are feeble. Or, they may be experiencing cognitive impairment or dementia and don’t want to admit that either.

It is important to make sure the people you’ve selected or hired to help with your finances are trustworthy. It never hurts to obtain a second opinion about any investment advice. If you think you’ve been the victim of financial abuse or fraud, please report it. If you are concerned that a loved one may have been taken advantage of, encourage them to report it or make the call yourself.

You can report financial abuse to the police. You can also reach out to your County Office on Aging to find out about programs or services. To report any elder abuse concern please contact your County Adult Protective service agency.

To find your County Office on Aging phone # visit, www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html or call 1-877-222-3737.

To find your County’s Adult Protective Service agency visit: http://www.state.nj.us/health/senior/adultpsp.shtml

or call 1-800-792-8820

Medicare Advantage- Beware of scare tactics

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Medicare Advantage- Beware of scare tactics

What is Medicare Advantage? Medicare Advantage plans are private plans offered by insurance companies to replace your traditional Medicare benefits.

An advantage plan provides all the same benefits as traditional Medicare, such as doctor visits and hospital stays. Some plans may offer extra benefits that are not usually covered by Medicare, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. Medicare Advantage plans come with a monthly premium that differs depending on the company and type of plan. The Federal Government pays the insurance companies to manage your care under a Medicare Advantage plan, instead of them managing it under traditional Medicare.

There have been some efforts to scare seniors into thinking that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will change or effect their Medicare Advantage coverage. But you need to know the facts. The Affordable Care Act does not change any benefits guaranteed to Medicare recipients. This includes Medicare Advantage plans. What the ACA does change is the way the Medicare Advantage plans are paid. Starting in 2012, Medicare began reducing the extra government payments to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage plans. The reason for these plans have been made to reduce payments is because there is little evidence that better care was given to anyone on a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are eligible to receive bonuses if they provide quality care.

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is low, even here in NJ, leaving some to question, what is the real advantage? Some may think having a commercial insurance company’s name on your card carries more weight than a Medicare card, but just like any commercial insurance plan, there are sometimes more hoops (referrals, prior authorizations) to jump through than there are with traditional Medicare.

What the Affordable Care Act does do for consumers who use Medicare Advantage plans is provide some protections. For example, Medicare Advantage plans are not allowed to charge more for services than traditional Medicare does. The ACA also has provisions to reduce out of pocket costs for patients using high-cost services like cancer treatment or dialysis. Under the ACA, Medicare Advantage plans have also been mandated to limit their administrative costs, as well as their profits. This measure is to ensure that the plans spend 85 % of their money on member benefits (that will start in 2014).

Rumors of Medicare Advantage consumers facing cuts to their benefits due to the ACA are rampant and intended to scare seniors. The truth is, every year the insurance companies are offered the choice to continue operating a Medicare Advantage Plan and to change the services offered under that plan (they are only required to cover what traditional Medicare covers). So, any year, not just this year, Medicare Advantage plans could chose to stop providing optional benefits such as eyeglasses.

So what does this all mean to you, the Medicare recipient? Well, if you are currently in a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan must send you a notice of any changes for 2013 by October 1, 2012. Make sure to read it carefully. Even if you are not currently in a Medicare Advantage plan, all Medicare recipients should go to www.medicare.gov to review both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans to compare and decide what is best for them. Open Enrollment is October 15 to December 7thand during that period you can decide to stay in the same Medicare Advantage plan you have now, change to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or switch to traditional Medicare. If you chose to switch to traditional Medicare, remember that if you had a Medicare Advantage plan that offered prescription drug coverage you will need to also enroll in a Medicare drug coverage plan and/or buy a Medigap supplemental policy.

 Detailed information about Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Drug coverage, Medigap plans and Open Enrollment can be found at http://www.medicare.gov/.

 For detailed information about the Affordable Care Act and seniors, visit www.ncoa.org/StraightTalk

For more information about the Affordable Care Act in general, you can visit, http://www.healthcare.gov/law/index.html