DENVER – With the enrollment period for Medicare Part D fast approaching this November 15, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and AARP ElderWatch today warned Medicaid Part D consumers about avoiding fraudulent enrollment offers.
“The new drug benefit is the biggest change in the Medicare program since its creation forty years ago,” said Suthers. “As the enrollment date approaches, seniors should watch out for scams and be cautious about any offer to enroll them in Medicare Part D.”
Medicare Part D is available to anyone eligible for Medicare to help with the cost of prescription drugs. Effective January 1, 2006, Part D will be provided by private health-insurance companies for a monthly premium.
Federal officials estimate that 41 million seniors are eligible to enroll in Medicare Part D across the country. Of those, roughly 520,000 reside in Colorado.
“AARP and the Attorney General’s Office want to ensure consumers take advantage of the new benefit in a safe and cautionary manner, including not giving out your Social Security number over the phone unless you originated the call,” said AARP state director Jon Looney.
The Attorney General in conjunction with AARP ElderWatch, issued the following tips to consumers to help them avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud:
Protect all personal information, including your Medicare number. Do not give out personal information, including bank, credit card and Social Security numbers. Plans are not allowed to request personal information such as this in their marketing activities.
Never provide payment over the phone or the Internet. The provider must send you a bill if you enroll over the telephone or web.
Don’t be pressured. Be suspicious of anyone who calls you that you have not contacted yourself or do not already have a plan with. Companies can call to tell you about their Medicare drug plans, but they can’t sign you up by calling you. Companies also cannot visit you at your home unless you invite them. Take your time to make the best decision. You have from November 15, 2005 until May 15, 2006 to decide.
Joining is free. You never have to pay for a form, or to get help filling it out.
You don’t have to join. Medicare’s prescription drug plan may be good for many people, but you don’t have to join. Even if you don’t join a Medicare drug plan, you won’t lose your other benefits from Medicare (Parts A and B) or from Social Security.
Look for the “Medicare-Approved” seal on plan materials. All Medicare approved plans will carry this seal.
Know the “enrollment rules.” Medicare prescription drug plans, for instance, cannot begin enrolling people with Medicare until November 15, 2005 and no payment for a Medicare prescription drug plan should be made before that date.
Call 1-800-MEDICARE if you are not sure about Medicare’s rules or to verify that a plan has been approved.
Medicare recipients who believe their information has been inappropriately used should contact 1-800-MEDICARE and the Attorney General’s Colorado Consumer Line at 1-800-222-4444. Consumers can also contact the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft hotline at 1-877-438-4338 to file a report.
AARP ElderWatch is a project of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the AARP Foundation.