NCL Provides Consumers with Tips to Identify Reliable Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Resources

Nation’s Oldest Consumer Group Warns against Criminals Posing as Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Plans

Since legitimate marketing for the federal program began last week, consumers across the nation are becoming aware that, starting in January 2006, Medicare will begin to offer coverage for prescription drugs. As prescription drug plans, consumer and health advocates, industry, and the government begin to send information about the new drug benefit out to the public, people in Medicare will need to know how to tell if they are dealing with reliable resources.

The National Consumers League (NCL) warns that con artists are already taking advantage of the fact that consumers will have various choices of Medicare drug plans by trying to offer phony programs. Their real objective is to steal consumers’ money, personal information, or both. Medicare beneficiaries considering enrolling in a prescription drug plan, warns the advocacy group, need to be on the lookout for telltale signs that an offer may be fraudulent.

“Choices can be a very good thing, but crooks are always looking to take advantage of opportunities and might pretend to be from the government or legitimate company to trick people into handing over their money or personal information,” said Susan Grant, National Consumers League Vice President and Director of the National Fraud Information Center. “But there are ways to determine if you’re looking at a real deal; to start with we always advise people to be extremely careful about giving out their Social Security and bank account numbers. The new Medicare plans are strictly voluntary and no one can force you to sign up.”

The Washington-based nonprofit organization has released new advice for Medicare beneficiaries at www.fraud.org that will help them avoid falling victim to a Medicare drug plan scam. Sample tips from the site include:

Check the list of Medicare-approved prescription drug plans. If a plan is not on the list, it’s a scam.

If someone says you must join or you’ll lose your other Medicare benefits, it’s a scam. The Medicare prescription drug benefit is voluntary.

If someone asks for payment before November 15, 2005, it’s a scam . The plans are allowed to begin advertising on October 1, 2005, but they’re not allowed to begin enrolling people and asking for payments until November 15, 2005, which is the beginning of the six-month open enrollment period.

Guard your personal information from identity thieves posing as sales people. Legitimate plans may ask for your Social Security number, but only when you are actually enrolling. And if you do join a plan, they can only ask for your credit card or bank account information if you are arranging to make automatic payments for your drug coverage from that account.

For additional warning signs and to find out how you can learn more about the Medicare drug plan, look for the National Consumers League’s new tips at www.fraud.org. For more information, write or call the National Consumers League at 1701 K Street, N.W., Suite 1200, Washington, D.C. 20006, 202-835-3323.

About NCL
The National Consumers League , founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to identify, protect, represent, and advance the economic and social interests of consumers and workers. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org .

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