Watch Out for Medicare
Prescription Drug Enrollment Scams
Enrollment in the new Medicare Prescription
Drug Plan is beginning and the federal government is already
concerned about Medicare scams. The federal Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services are working with local law enforcement
to investigate several potential scams where senior citizens
were asked to provide bank card numbers and other personal information.
Before I talk about the scams, however, I
need to say a few words about the complicated issue of government-provided
prescription drug benefits. The federal government created Medicare
Part D’s prescription drug benefit to help some of the
estimated 41 million senior citizens on Medicare purchase necessary
medications. The state of Wisconsin also offers prescription
drug coverage through the state’s group health insurance
program. Governor Jim Doyle and other state officials believe
the SeniorCare program provides greater benefits than the new
Medicare plan for most Wisconsin seniors, so SeniorCare enrollees
should get all of the facts before opting out of the state plan
and into the Medicare plan.
Unfortunately, the complex drug pricing issue
is leading to consumer confusion, and criminals hope to capitalize
on the confusion. What can you do to protect yourself or a loved
one from falling victim to a Medicare scam? First, carefully
study and compare the available drug plans before choosing.
The Wisconsin Medicare Part D Taskforce has created a web site
that provides helpful information not only on what the new law
is all about but what your options are in Wisconsin: http://www.wismedrx.org/learnaboutthe/.
The Medicare Rights Center and AARP have also developed a flow
chart at www.medicareinteractive.org/aarp to help you sort through
your options. An informed consumer will be much less likely
to fall victim to a scam.
Second, if you are interested in applying
for benefits under the federal Medicare Part D program and you
are contacted by phone or at home by someone marketing what
they say is an approved prescription plan, ask for written information
that you can first review. Do not give out any personal information
such as a bank account number or social security number over
the phone or at your front door. Otherwise, you could become
another one of many identity theft victims.
Third, when you receive the written information,
check whether the plan provider is federally approved by contacting
the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services toll free at 1-800-633-4227.
Fourth, make sure the provider is approved
by the state of Wisconsin. You can contact the Wisconsin Board
on Aging and Long Term Care toll free at 1-800-242-1060.
Finally, hang up your phone or close your
front door if a marketer tells you that you must join a plan
to avoid losing your other Medicare benefits. This information
is plain wrong.
I wish you well as you or a family member
makes your drug coverage decisions.
Christmas shopping tips
As we enter the busiest shopping season of
the year, you may want to check out my article on Christmas
shopping tips in the December, 2003 edition of the Wisconsin
Energy Cooperative News. The Article is available on the web
and lists websites for comparing prices and
product reviews on items, as well as making recommendations
to ensure you get what you paid for. Have a safe and happy holiday