You can add Medicare to the long list of things impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing requirements have altered how people sign up for Medicare and work with insurance agents.
In the past, much of Medicare was handled face-to-face. Signing up for Parts A and B, finding an insurance agent, and choosing a private plan all happened with an emphasis on face-to-face interaction.
This mode isn't workable in an age of social distancing. Until the dangers of COVID-19 are alleviated, much of face-to-face interaction is on hold. You still need quality Medicare coverage, though, so how can you move forward today?
Technology offers some solutions. You can sign up for Medicare Parts A and B online at ssa.gov. The internet also gives you access to a host of private plans like Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement Insurance.
You can use technology to work with a licensed insurance agent, too; no face-to-face meetings required. With technologies like video calling, you can "see" your agent while you talk, allowing you to get a feel for them, almost like meeting in-person.
Working online, over the phone, and by email is more efficient than the old model. Medicare Insurance plan information and enrollment kits are available in digital form. You can download them in seconds, and save paper, too.
Caution is required, though. Scams are skyrocketing as people search for help online. Here are some tips to help you stay safe as you access Medicare remotely.
• Make sure you're on the Social Security Administration's website when you enroll in Parts A and B; all pages end in .gov.
• Never pay an agent for helping you with Medicare. Agents are compensated by insurance companies.
• Confirm that an agent is actually licensed in South Carolina, at sbs.naic.org/solar-external-lookup.
• You don't have to give an agent payment information while completing an application. You can have the insurance company bill you. Elect to pay by ETF or ACH once you're enrolled.
• Check an agent's website to see if they provide free educational materials and helpful information. Or, is the website more appointment and sales oriented?
There's no question that the coronavirus has made a lasting impact on how people get and use Medicare. Make the most of the latest technologies to get the help you need, while staying healthy and financially safe.
Joe Arroyo is an independent health insurance agent and freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org or allofmedicare.com