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December 2005

Watch Out for Medicare Part D
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 at

www.wecnmagazine.com/consumer/2003/ccpdecember03.html

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 season!

Copyright ©2005 Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.