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December 2010

Beware of Medicare Fraud

The Federal Trade Commission is warning the public about Medicare fraud following the arrest of more than 40 individuals alleged to be involved in a conspiracy to steal identities of doctors and thousands of patients. They are thought to have used more than 100 bogus clinics in 25 states to fraudulently bill Medicare for more than $100 million.

Beginning November 15, Medicare recipients could sign up or change plans. This is the time when criminals begin operating. Some Medicare plans can save you money and are offered by legitimate companies. Unfortunately, there are others that are scams. What should you watch for?

            Medical Discount Plan Scams. Plenty of marketers are trying to sell plans that are said to offer discounts for doctor’s visits or for pharmaceutical drugs. To make sure you aren’t being scammed, you should: (1) ask for a list of providers who participate in the plan, (2) ask for a website where you can receive additional information, (3) investigate the details of the plan and pay special attention to the refund policy if you decide to cancel early, (4) calculate the cost of the discount plan over a time period and compare this to what you might pay without the discount plan, and (5) call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-447-8477 if you run across a potential thief.

            Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan Scams. Other thieves may call you and claim they represent Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. They will call and use high-pressure sales tactics or make false claims to sign you up for a plan that may not actually cover the prescriptions you take. Other thieves will call, but they often don’t actually want to sell you a plan. Rather, they want your personal identifying information so that they can commit identity theft.

If you are considering signing up for a Part D prescription drug plan, you should: (1) know that a Medicare Part D provider may not ask you for payment over the phone, whether by credit card, bank account transfer, or some other form of payment, or (2) charge you a fee to enroll in the plan. If you are asked to provide personal identifying information such as your social security number, Medicare number, or bank or credit account number, hang up the phone immediately. Never give out personal identifying information to someone who has called you because you don’t actually know who they are and because a legitimate company will not ask you for such information over the phone. Call the Center for Medicare and Medicaid at 1-800-633-4227 if you have concerns about a plan that is being offered to you.

            Avoid Free Trial Offers. Many “free trial offers” do not end up being free. For example, you may be told that you can sign up for a medical discount plan or Medicare Part D prescription drug plan at no cost so that you can try it out. However, you may be signed up for an automatic enrollment plan that will charge you if you don’t cancel by a certain date. You often are not told when that date arrives or even who you can contact to cancel the contract.

Before you sign, you should: (1) pay close attention to the terms and conditions of the offer and understand whom you are dealing with, (2) ask if this is an automatic enrollment plan and if you must cancel by a certain date along with how you need to cancel, and (3) make sure you cancel before the cancellation date or you may be charged for the product or service. Stay safe. 

 

 


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