Medicare Continues to Confuse and Confound

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

With the start of the Medicare enrollment season here, more seniors are finding themselves baffled by an array of choices.  How can you avoid making a mistake that may haunt you for the rest of your life?

The launch of the new Medicare Plan Finder will be the only way to discover information about the 2020 Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans, according to a recent article from Forbes“Is the New Medicare Plan Finder Putting Seniors in Jeopardy?”

We’re from the government. We’re here to help. Heard that before.

Here’s the first part.

To access your information, you must now log into your account. If you don’t have an account, you must set one up. To do so, you will need your Medicare number and some “protected health information.”  

The access to this information may create problems for people trying to help beneficiaries with Medicare Advantage and Part D drug plan reviews. How will this be handled? One agency says have the helping person pass the keyboard to the beneficiary so they can type in the information themselves. What if the help is being given while the two people are on the phone? The person can take the information from the beneficiary and put it directly into the system, never writing it down.

But this doesn’t follow the requirements. You or your appointed Authorized Representative are the only people who should be able to access this information.  What is an “Authorized Representative?”

There is a process for doing this, through the Medicare website. There’s a form that can be filled out and mailed.  But what if the person doesn’t feel comfortable assigning this role? That also means that the pharmacist, insurance agents and plan representatives need to be made official. But that also leaves room for abuse.

With more scams targeting seniors emerging every day, how long until scammers figure out a way to cash in on this? Preying on senior’s susceptibility and trusting nature, a caller could easily offer to help the senior log into their account and help, while accessing records and getting into who knows what kind of money-making scheme.

There’s enough confusion without adding to it.

The Legacy Plan Finder required only a user’s zip code, medication list and pharmacy information. The information is saved, a drug list ID and password date is the only information needed to access the account. There’s no protected information on the site.

Expect the next few months to give many seniors a lot of agita. Doing reviews without logging in will be time- consuming and frustrating. Even if there were no medication changes, it’s possible there may be questions during the process. Too bad – the person must start all over again.

And how many people will be willing to become personal representatives? This is a responsibility that will give them access to information they may rather not have. What is the liability if a mistake is made? In today’s culture of blame, that’s a risk that even family members may not want.

A new tool is supposed to be an improvement. This one is a step in the wrong direction.

About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.