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Health officials warn of misleading post cards

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) is urging residents, particularly older adults, to be aware of post cards that read: "Important: Projected Medicare Changes," which may be misleading.

Officials with the state agency are alerting residents that the cards are sent on behalf of insurance salespeople, and are not endorsed by Medicare.

DHS received an alert from the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking the agency to inform citizens of the potential confusion, according to Cynthia Haley Dunn, a liaison with the DHS Division of Aging Services.

"People may think that the post cards are coming directly from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), when they are coming from other sources," Dunn said. "They may be a variety of insurance companies or businesses."

Dr. James Bulot, Division of Aging Services director, for the Georgia Department of Human Services, said, if consumers have questions about Medicare changes, they should contact the GeorgiaCares network.

The GeorgiaCares State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) offers individuals free, one-on-one help, provided by trained local counselors. The program is managed statewide by the DHS Division of Aging Services and Georgia's twelve Area Agencies on Aging.

To contact GeorgiaCares, call 1 (800) 669-8387 toll-free, or visit the GeorgiaCares web site at www.MyGeorgiaCares.org.

Callers may request personalized information about Medicare, Medicaid and Medigap matters, including long-term care insurance, claims, the resolution of billing problems, information and referral on public benefit programs aimed at those with limited incomes and assets, and other health care insurance information.

The GeorgiaCares team is available to answer questions about open enrollment for Medicare Part C (prescription drug coverage) and Part D (Medicare Advantage plans). Enrollment began Nov. 15, and recipients will have until Dec. 31, to make their choices.

After this period, beneficiaries can make limited changes during the annual Disenrollment Period of Jan. 1, through Feb. 14, of each year.

Beneficiaries who do not want to make a change can remain in their plans from 2010.

GeorgiaCares SHIP counselors will answer hotline calls from individuals, and provide community education sessions for any group throughout the state, to help beneficiaries understand their options for the coming year. For assistance, beneficiaries can call GeorgiaCares, or they can contact Medicare at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227), or visit the Medicare web site at www.medicare.gov.

For more information about services available to older Georgians and their families, visit the DHS Division of Aging Services at www.aging.dhr.georgia.gov, or call (866) 55-AGING, or (866) 552-4464.