Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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"Medicare Beneficiaries Warned About Drug Card Scams"

"Medicare Starts Website to Compare Drug Prices"

"Lots of cards, lots of confusion: New Medicare drug discount means seniors face some puzzling choices"

"Consumers Warned to Be Wary of Scams Involving Medicare Drug Discount Cards" "Medicare Implements New Steps to Prevent Drug Card Fraud"

"Medicare Makes Drug Card Enrollment Easier with Autoenrollment and Standard Form"

Lately, newspaper headlines have been filled with information about the new Medicare-approved Drug Discount Cards. Some of the articles warn against drug card scams that have been reported in various parts of the United States. Seniors are frequently the targets of professional and amateur scam artists. Over the past few years, the number of companies that market counterfeit health care programs has increased, with thousands of people falling victim to health care fraud.

Seniors must protect themselves against unscrupulous telemarketers and door-to-door solicitors who promote "look-alike" programs or pose as "facilitators," willing to provide enrollment assistance to seniors ? for a fee. Some Medicare beneficiaries have received telephone and in-person solicitations from such impostors, pretending to be Medicare officials, and extracting personal identifying information from beneficiaries.

How can seniors navigate the intricate process of choosing a drug discount card and avoid falling into the traps of clever scam artists? Health care decisions are complicated, and making an informed decision about the best card program for you will take time and energy. Seniors should be proactive in order to maximize the value of the Drug Discount Card. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance, and take time to evaluate the different programs before enrolling. The Attorney General offers the following tips to remember and some resources that can provide assistance in reaching your decision.

  • KNOW THE TIME LINE ? Only certain private companies have been authorized to act as card sponsors for the new Medicare-approved drug discount cards. These companies have begun marketing their cards to Medicare beneficiaries through television, radio, newspaper and direct mail advertising. Enrollment begins May 3, 2004 , and the program will go into effect on June 1st. All approved cards will bear the "Medicare Rx Approved" seal. Approved card sponsors will not conduct "cold" calls to seniors ? in person or by telephone ? unless the beneficiary specifically requests further information in response to an ad.
  • NEVER SHARE YOUR PERSONAL HEALTH OR IDENTIFYING INFORMATION ? such as bank account or credit card numbers, social security or health insurance card numbers ? with door-to-door solicitors or telemarketers. If you receive such a solicitation and suspect fraud, contact local law enforcement agencies immediately. You can also call the Office of Inspector General ("OIG") Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477 (the OIG also has a website at www.oig.hhs.gov) or 1-800-MEDICARE.
  • ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE LOGO ? All Medicare-approved cards have the "Medicare Rx Approved" insignia. If you have questions about the legitimacy of the card program, contact Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or on the internet at www.medicare.gov. Medicare has customer service representatives available to answer questions about the program, and promises that "personalized help in choosing a drug discount card will be a phone call away."
  • CHECK IT OUT ? On April 29 th, the Medicare-approved drug discount card companies began to provide pricing information, so that beneficiaries can compare the merits of each card. This information can be obtained by contacting Medicare at the telephone number or website listed above.
  • ASK FOR HELP ? Your local APPRISE offices are prepared to answer questions and help beneficiaries sign up for a Medicare-approved drug discount card. For more information about your county Area Agency on Aging office and the APPRISE program, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Aging at 1-800-783-7067 or on the internet at www.aging.state.pa.us.

The Department of Aging is also sponsoring town meetings throughout the Commonwealth to educate the public about the Medicare Drug Discount Card. Your pharmacist may also be willing to help you compare the benefits of the different Medicare-approved discount drug cards available in your area.

  • FOR PACE & PACENET PARTICIPANTS ? DO NOT PURCHASE A DISCOUNT CARD ? Pennsylvania has been authorized to offer a Medicare-approved drug discount card to Medicare beneficiaries who are PACE or PACENET participants. This will supplement the benefits available under the PACE and PACENET programs. The Department of Aging will be able to enroll eligible individuals automatically in the federal program. If you have questions about this program, or wonder if you may qualify for it, contact PACE/PACENET, Pennsylvania Department of Aging, at 1-800-225-7223 or on the internet at www.aging.pa.us or PACECares@fhsc.com.
  • THE DRUG DISCOUNT CARD IS NOT INSURANCE and is not a substitute for health insurance coverage under Medicare or Medical Assistance.

The decisions we make about our health care are vitally important, and should be given careful consideration. Health care is a complex and challenging area, and I encourage seniors to avail themselves of the resources I have mentioned above when deciding upon their Drug Discount Card.

If you believe you have been victimized by health care fraud, contact my Health Care Section at: 14th Floor, Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120, at 717-705-6938 or 877-888-4877 (10 AM to 3 PM weekdays), or file an online complaint.