We’re home, still feeling isolated during the pandemic. The phone rings; a welcomed sound. We look forward to hearing from a family member or friend — a warm voice to spend time with. We answer the phone, and minutes later, our whole life is turned upside down. Does this sound familiar?

Too often, unfortunately, many of our kūpuna fall victim to scammers who want their health, financial or other personal information. Our seniors face dire consequences as these comments from Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) Hawaii reveal:

“ I bought a COVID-19 test kit that Medicare won’t pay for!”
“I think someone’s using my Medicare number!”
“ They swabbed my cheek and said Medicare would cover 100 percent for genetic tests!”
“ I got a bill for a knee brace that I don’t need!”

Our reputation, savings, assets and ultimately, our life legacy are at risk when we trust the person on the phone, email or social media, to help us. “Free,” “discounts,” “take action immediately or else” and “urgent” are words that make us panic and not think clearly.

Here’s a larger view of the problem:

• 10,000-plus Americans turn 65 each day and many of them become eligible for Medicare.
• One in four Hawai‘i residents is 65 or older. This group will represent a third of our state’s total population in less than a decade.
• Medicare loses approximately $70 billion each year — a modest guesstimate since it’s difficult to truly measure its  annual loss.
• By 2022, hospital and drug costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion.

SMP’s volunteer-based program is funded by the US Administration for Community Living and is administered by the Hawai‘i Department of Health, Executive Office on Aging. SMP Hawaii “empowers and assists beneficiaries, their families and caregivers to prevent, detect and report healthcare fraud, errors and abuse through education and counseling.”

SMP Hawaii can refer you to many community resources and help to report suspected cases of healthcare fraud to appropriate authorities. Contact us for more information or to learn more about how to volunteer, because it takes every person in our entire state to protect our precious kūpuna.

Executive Office on Aging , Hawaii Department of Health
Advocacy, Education and Outreach Section
250 South Hotel St., Ste. 406, Honolulu, HI 96813
808-586-7281 | 1-800-296-9422
info@smphawaii.org | www.smphawaii.org