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Part D Scams - Watch Out!!

The "$299 Ring" Scam - beginning in March of 2006, callers, identifying themselves as Medicare employees, have telephoned seniors and asked for their checking account information in order to "sell them a Part D drug plan for $299." CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) has received complaints about such calls from beneficiaries in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Georgia. CMS advises that patients should call their local police if they are asked to provide information over the telephone.

Across the States

Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and Helen Marks Dicks, Director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups' Elder Law Center have created a joint effort, Medicare D Watch, to combat Medicare Part D scams and coverage problems and to aid seniors.

"This new drug plan can be confusing, which could make Medicare beneficiaries vulnerable to exploitation," Lautenschlager said.

Questionable activities include deceptive sales practices such as enrolling a Medicare beneficiary, without his or her knowledge, into a more expensive Medicare Advantage plan rather than a Medicare Part D plan.

"I hope seniors and their families will take the time to protect themselves and others from fraud related to Medicare Part D" Lautenschlager said. Contact them at medfraud@cwag.org or call the toll-free helpline at 1-866-456-8211.

A Medicare recipient in the Mid West, and one on the West Coast, both reported being telephoned by someone again claiming to represent Medicare. This time, the person said that he would deposit money into the senior's bank account if the seniors would provide the bank account numbers. The caller asked one of the seniors for his social security number and threatened that if he did not provide it he would lose his Medicare coverage. Again, at least one of these calls was traced to a number outside of the United States.

Last year in North Carolina, a scam was reported in which a senior citizen received an unsolicited telephone call from someone claiming to be with Medicare. This person then attempted to "enroll" her into a Medicare Part D program for $109 if the senior would provide her checking account information over the phone. The senior was told that this "plan" would completely pay for all of her prescription drugs. Thankfully, the senior immediately contacted her state SHIP (State Health Insurance Information Program), who put her in contact with the authorities. The SHIP volunteer, the consumer and the bank were able to block any withdrawals from the senior's account. This particular telephone number was then traced to Ontario, Canada.

In Florida, chief financial officer Tom Gallagher has also voiced concern that scam artists may try to take advantage of seniors who are confused about Medicare Part D. He has created a free brochure that can be obtained by calling the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-800-342-2762 or by logging on to the department's website at www.flseniors.net and click on "Medicare Rx Resources."

"I am deeply concerned that scam artists will exploit seniors interested in new options under Medicare," said Gallagher. "We will aggressively pursue those who attempt to rip off the elderly. A senior's best defense against fraud is knowledge."

The Following Agencies are there to help you if you need assistance or clarification:

CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) "Quick Facts About Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage and Protecting Your Personal Information," can be found at www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11147.pdf

Medicare: If you have questions, need help verifying or comparing plans or want to enroll visit www.medicare.gov or call 800-633-4227 or 1-800-MEDICARE. Medicare also has a reward program in place for reporting fraud. Information on this program can be obtained from Medicare's web site.

SHIP: Your local State Health Insurance Information Program offers free Medicare Part D counseling and can help you choose a plan and enroll either in person or over the telephone. To find your nearest office, visit www.shiptalk.org or call Medicare at 800-633-4227.

Area Aging Agencies: Medicare has been working with senior centers and other local organizations to provide Medicare Part D education and assistance in your community. To find help, contact your local aging agency. Call 800-677-1116 to get your local number.

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