Watch Out for Medicare Part D Scams

With the price of prescription drugs on the rise, the federal government enacted Medicare Part D, a prescription drug plan for those who qualified for Medicare. The program was introduced in January 2006, and just two years later over 25 million seniors were enrolled.

They are to be congratulated for making sense of this complex initiative. Out-of-pocket expenses under the standard Medicare Part D plan are determined by a complicated formula that includes a coverage gap, popularly called the doughnut hole, that occurs before enrollees qualify for catastrophic coverage.

The confusion surrounding Medicare Part D rules attracted scam artists almost immediately. Just two months after the program was introduced, a group of crooks called the $299 Gang swung into action. Callers identifying themselves as Medicare employees contacted seniors and offered them a Part D drug plan for $299. They explained that this one-time fee would cover several years or even a lifetime of premiums, making it sound very attractive. In many cases, they knew the name of the senior's physician, adding credence to their pitch. The fraudsters' goal was to convince seniors to give them their checking account, credit card, and social security numbers.

As a result, it pays to be cautious. If you are considering Medicare Part D coverage for your loved one, keep these points in mind:

  • Medicare Part D plan representatives may call to tell your loved one about their Medicare drug plans, but they may not sign them up. Your loved one may enroll by telephone only if they call the provider.
  • Before your loved one calls any organization reputed to be a Medicare provider, call Medicare first (1-800-633-4227) and check to make sure it is genuine.
  • Bear in mind that Medicare does not recommend any particular prescription drug plan. It simply verifies that a provider is legitimate.
  • Providers may come to your loved one's home, but only if they have been invited to do so.
  • Providers may ask your loved one how they want to pay their premiums, but providers may not ask for payment over the phone or through the Internet. They must mail your loved one a bill.

Don't hesitate to report scams and suspicious activity to the Department of Health and Human Services Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477. And above all, don't let your loved one give out any personal information until you are sure that the company they are working with is approved by Medicare.

Web Resource

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a consumer alert on Medicare Part D fraud. Visit the FTC Web site to find out more.