HELENA – The latest scam against seniors is selling fake Medicare prescription cards to seniors under the new Federal Medicare Prescription Plan.
Confusion surrounding the new and complex Medicare prescription drug benefit makes the elderly susceptible to scams popping up elsewhere, Montana state health officials warned Monday.
Scam artists have been selling fake Medicare discount cards to seniors in Idaho and Georgia, said Kimme Evermann, coordinator of the State Health Insurance Assistance Program of the state Public Health and Human Services Department. This meager start is certainly only the beginning of such activities that will be popping up all over the country.
State officials are trying to educate Montana’s seniors on the cards to prevent scams from happening here.
“We’ve been getting lots of calls from seniors who are confused about what the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 means to them,” Evermann said.
Medicare recipients who do not have Medicaid drug coverage are eligible for a prescription-drug discount card that will give cardholders an estimated 15 to 25 percent discount on prescription purchases.
Seniors will be required to buy their $30 discount cards from private health care providers that are Medicare-approved. No providers are yet federally approved to dispense the cards.
“This is when people need to beware,” said Chuckie Cramer, a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging. “There may be people out promoting discount cards that may not be approved, and they may be trying to take advantage of our senior citizens.”
Authentic discount cards will be stamped with a federal government seal, Evermann said.
In April, the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin mailing informational letters to all Medicare recipients. The letters will contain an illustration of the official government seal and will tell seniors how and where to apply for the cards, Evermann said.
While Montana’s elderly need to be aware of fake discount cards, they also need to watch out for “bait and switch” schemes, Evermann said.
The new Medicare law allows providers to “bait” seniors with high discounts and then “switch” the product by increasing drug costs, she added. Federal law permits providers to update drug prices, as well as the drugs they discount, weekly.
Medicare will monitor routine changes in drug prices to make sure private-sector programs don’t deviate from those prices.
“But that doesn’t mean some programs won’t try to take advantage of seniors,” she added.
Seniors can begin using their discount cards in June. Congress intended the discount card program to be a temporary fix until the permanent Medicare drug benefit goes into effect in 2006, state officials said.
You should wait to receive you letter from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services before obtaining a so-called Prescription Card.
What to do if you suspect fraud
To further assist you, the Office of the Inspector General maintains a hotline, which offers a confidential means for reporting vital information. The Hotline can be contacted:
|By Phone:||1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477)|
(no more than 10 pages please)
|By Mail:||Office of the Inspector General|
HHS TIPS Hotline
P.O. Box 23489
Washington, DC 20026
If you are attempting to report specific information proving Medicare fraud, please provide as much identifying information as possible regarding your concern. Such information should include subject’s name, address and phone number etc. Details regarding the allegation should include the basics of who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Please note that it is current Hotline policy not to respond directly to written communications.