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Fact Sheets

MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES WARNED ABOUT DRUG CARD SCAMS

MEDICARE BENEFICIARIES WARNED ABOUT DRUG CARD SCAMS

Overview:   The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved 48 general drug discount cards, including 27 available nationally to all eligible Medicare beneficiaries beginning June 1. With the new cards, Medicare beneficiaries will receive discounts on prescription drugs, and low-income beneficiaries may receive an additional $600 credit to help pay for their prescription medicines in both 2004 and 2005.

The competition between organizations offering cards -- as well as the public display of the prices the cards offer for prescription medicines – is expected to help drive down prices so that seniors get the best savings on their medicines.   HHS is offering several tools to help seniors compare and choose the cards providing the best savings when they become available. 

But with the announcement of the drug card program, a number of potential drug card scams have arisen in various parts of the U.S.    The Department’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of Inspector General are warning Medicare beneficiaries and their family members to be cautious when being approached to buy a drug discount card.

Beneficiaries should NEVER share personal information such as their bank account number, social security number or health insurance card number (or Medicare number) with any individual who calls or comes to the door claiming to sell ANY Medicare related product.   If fraud is suspected, the beneficiary should call 1-800-MEDICARE, the OIG Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477 or a local law enforcement agency (such as the police). 

Medicare-approved drug discount card program

All card programs approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

will bear the Medicare Rx seal.

Marketing for the Medicare-approved drug discount card program will begin in early May and enrollment in these card programs will begin in May 2004.   Card sponsors will advertise their cards on television, radio, newspapers and direct mail.  Approved card sponsors will not conduct any cold-calls, therefore, no individual should receive a call from a card sponsor unless they have requested further information from an ad or direct mail piece.

Potential Scams and what to do about them

Although the Medicare-Approved Prescription Drug Discount Card program has not yet been implemented, some Medicare beneficiaries across the country (Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia) have already received calls as well as in-person solicitations from individuals/companies posing as Medicare officials attempting to gain personal information from beneficiaries with the intent to scam the beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries who are contacted by these false card companies should always remember:

  • The Medicare-approved discount cards are not currently available.   The names of the card sponsors were announced March 25th and the companies will begin to market their cards through commercial advertising and direct mail beginning in April.
  • A beneficiary should NEVER share personal information such as their bank account number, social security number or health insurance card number (or Medicare number) with any individual who calls or comes to the door claiming to sell ANY Medicare related product.
  • Medicare is committed to providing information on the approved drug discount cards to help beneficiaries make the selection best fitting their needs. Starting April 29, beneficiaries will be able to compare prices of drugs offered by the drug card programs at www.medicare.govor by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. 

Helping to fight fake cards

In response to these concerns, CMS is:

  • Coordinating information with customer service representatives at 1-800-MEDICARE, the call centers at the Medicare contractors and the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs). 
  • Making referrals to the HHS Office of the Inspector General where there is specific enough information to indicate potential fraud. 
  • Continuing to explore methods to limit the scope of these scams and developing a process to work with appropriate law enforcement agencies to end these scams.

Working closely with the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Inspector General as well as other agencies that have dealt with issues of prescription drug fraud.