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Steer clear of scams as new drug benefit starts, AG Cooper warns seniors

Release date: 5/5/2004

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today offered advice for consumers who may be planning to enroll in the new Medicare prescription drug discount programs, which began taking applications this week.

“Seniors deserve relief from high prescription drug prices,” said Cooper. “Unfortunately, scam artists may try to use the confusion created by this new drug discount program to take advantage of seniors.”

As of May 3, 2004, Medicare beneficiaries can choose from among several programs that offer prescription drug discount cards. Seniors will pay $30 or less per year for a card that is predicted by Medicare to save them 10 to 15 percent on most prescriptions. Participants will be able to use their cards starting June 1. These programs are designed to give seniors relief from high prescription drug costs until Medicare's drug coverage kicks in on January 1, 2006.

Participation in one of the drug card programs is voluntary and is open to anyone who receives Medicare benefits except seniors who receive drug coverage through Medicaid. Private health care companies began marketing the Medicare-approved cards to seniors this week. Participants sign up directly with the company they choose.

Cooper offered the following tips for consumers who are considering enrolling in a drug discount program:

  • Watch out for prescription drug card offers sold door-to-door or by telemarketers. Information about how to sign up for one of the legitimate drug cards approved by Medicare will arrive by mail. Consumers should shop around for the best prescription drug card, rather than selecting the first company that contacts them.

     

  • Study mailings carefully, too. Seniors in other states have reported getting solicitations by mail from a group called Senior Security Prescription Plan. The mailing, which is not affiliated with Medicare, asks consumers to provide their credit card number and other personal information. Consumers can report suspected scams like this one to Cooper’s office by calling (877)-5-NO-SCAM.

     

  • Make sure the card you’re considering is approved by Medicare. Check out the company first before you enroll or agree to share any personal information with them. Consumers can look up participating companies online at www.medicare.gov.

     

  • Find out if the card covers your prescriptions. Check savings for each prescription medication you take as well as y our total savings wit h each card. The amount you’ll save for the same prescriptions will vary from card to card. Seniors can compare drug discount programs at www.medicare.gov or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227). North Carolina consumers can also contact the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP), a division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance, for help and information at (800) 443-9354.

     

  • Check with your pharmacy to make sure they will accept the card you plan to choose.

     

  • Be aware that your coverage may change over time. Drugs covered, prices for drugs and benefits offered by a particular drug card can change at any time without prior notification.

     

  • Your drug discount card is not a substitute for health insurance. Seniors on Medicare should not drop any current prescription drug coverage they may have through another insurer and rely solely on a discount card. However, keep in mind that you may not be permitted to use both your Medicare drug discount card and other prescription coverage on the same prescription.

     

“Consumers should take the time to compare their options, decide if they want to buy a discount drug card and choose the one that’s right for them,” cautioned Cooper. “Don’t be swayed by the first offer that arrives in your mailbox. Check out the company before you sign up or share any personal information.”