Okla. Warns of Scam Artists Targeting Seniors Enrolling in Medicare Part D

January 25, 2006

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland and Attorney General Drew Edmondson are concerned that Oklahoma seniors will fall victim to scam artists taking advantage of the confusion created by Medicare Part D enrollment and implementation, according to the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2006, Medicare began offering prescription drug plans to seniors under Medicare Part D. Insurance companies approved by Medicare are providing these Prescription Drug Plans (also called PDPs). The enrollment for this program continues through May 15, 2006.

“We will not tolerate unlicensed individuals preying upon our seniors as they seek to improve their access to affordable prescriptions. We want our seniors to know where they can go for assistance – for both information on Medicare Part D as well as to protect themselves from fraud,” Commissioner Holland stated in a news release. “To date, scams are not widespread, but we want to ensure that Oklahoma seniors have the help and information they need to prevent being victimized.”

“Medicare Part D is set up to help health care consumers pay for prescription medication,” Edmondson said. “It’s imperative in the rush to sign up for the benefits that consumers not give out personal or financial information to someone not authorized to receive it.”

A license is required to enroll seniors in this supplemental program in the state of Oklahoma. This license is issued by the Oklahoma Insurance Department. In addition, there are many specific rules about how a company or individual can solicit a potential client.

“We haven’t had any complaints yet, but there is certainly the potential for fraud so Oklahomans should be prepared,” Edmondson said.

Here are some tips to avoid becoming the victim of a scam artist:

• Beware of door-to-door salesmen discussing Medicare. Agents cannot solicit business at your home without an appointment.
• Check with the Oklahoma Insurance Department to make sure the salesman is licensed as an agent at 1-800-522-0071 or on the Web at www.oid.state.ok.us.
• Do not give out personal information, such as Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers to anyone you have not verified is a licensed agent. People are not allowed to request such personal information in their marketing activities and cannot ask for payment over the Internet. * They must send you a bill.
• Only give personal information once you have decided to purchase a plan and have verified that the agent is licensed to assist in enrollment and billing.

For more information about Medicare Part D:

• Contact the Oklahoma Senior Health Insurance Counseling Program (SHICP) at 1-800-763-2828 if you have any questions.
• Verify that the plan is an approved Medicare plan. All of the approved plans are available at www.medicare.gov or you can call 1-800-MEDICARE. In addition, they will have the official Medicare logo.

If you suspect fraud contact one of the following resources:

• Oklahoma Insurance Department Fraud Division at 1-800-522-0071
• Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at 1-405-521-2029
• SUMMIT Medicare/Medicaid Fraud, Abuse, and Waste Reduction Program at 1-888-967-9100
• U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS
• Social Security Association fraud Web site: www.ssa.gov/oig/hotline or hotline 1-800-447-8477.

The Senior Health Insurance Counseling Program (SHICP) is a part of the Oklahoma Insurance Department and receives a mixture of federal and state funds to inform the public about Medicare and other senior health insurance issues. SHICP stands ready to assist and answer questions regarding Medicare Part D.

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