Here are some ways to take an active role in protecting your health care benefits:

  • Treat your Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like a credit card number. Never give these numbers to a stranger.

  • Remember, Medicare doesn’t call or visit to sell you anything.

  • Don’t carry your Medicare or Medicaid card unless you will need it. Only take it to doctor’s appointments, visits to your hospital or clinic or trips to the pharmacy.

  • Record doctor visits, tests and procedures in your personal health care journal or calendar.

  • Save Medicare Summary Notices and Part D Explanation of Benefits until you have reviewed them. Shred the documents when they are no longer useful.

  • Avoid telephone or e-mail offers of “free” medical tests or supplies in exchange for a “peek” at your Medicare or Medicaid card.

  • Beware of advertising that promises Medicare will pay for certain care or devices.

  • Never sign a blank form. Always read and keep a copy of any document or agreement you sign.

  • If you rent medical equipment, such as a walker, return the item to the medical equipment dealer when you are finished. Always get a dated receipt for the return.

  • Beware of offers of TENS units (battery-powered units that send electrical impulses to reduce pain), nebulizers (breathing machines), noninvasive blood flow studies, “free” cholesterol checks and promises of “stroke prevention.” Rely on your own doctor’s advice to prescribe appropriate treatment for you.