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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
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Advocating for Older Citizens

The New Federal Drug Benefit: Medicare Part D


HOW CAN I SURVIVE THE MARKETING AVALANCHE AND AVOID SCAMS?

 
 
 
 
       
The Marketing Avalanche Back to top
 

Medicare prescription drug plans began marketing their plans directly to you on October 1, 2005. Through the airwaves, newspapers, mailboxes, e-mail, and the telephone, companies may be bombarding you with marketing materials. You should have received Medicare’s “Medicare & You 2006” booklet as well. Although this marketing may be informative, it may also be designed to influence you to choose a plan that may not be the best one for you. That is why it is VERY IMPORTANT to take your time, compare plans and understand your choices before you make any decisions.

       
Restrictions on Part D Marketing Back to top
 

Medicare has issued extensive marketing guidelines companies must follow, including rules governing telemarketing, door-to-door solicitations and e-mail.

Telemarketing
Telemarketing may be used to give you information to help you make an informed choice. Telemarketers may describe the benefits of a plan, ask you if you want pre-enrollment information, and inform you of changes in a plan. But be careful. Make sure you know these rules that telemarketers must follow.

   

Telemarketers ARE NOT ALLOWED TO :

  • ask for personal identification or financial information like Social Security, Medicare, or credit card numbers, or bank account numbers and information;

  • enroll you in a plan.

   

Telemarketers ARE REQUIRED TO :

  • comply with the national Do Not Call Registry;

  • honor “do not call again” requests;

  • abide by the federal calling hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

  • tell you that you are not required to provide any information to the telemarketer.

 

Door-to-door Solicitation
Plans are not allowed to solicit you door-to-door unless you specifically invite a plan representative to come to your house. The Attorney General’s Office has “No Solicitation” stickers you can put in your window or on your door. Call the Senior Fraud Hotline at 1-800-243-5377 to request one.

Email
Plans are not allowed to send you e-mails unless you agree to receive them and you give the plan your e-mail address.

       
What You Can Do to Avoid Telemarketing Back to top
 

Register with the national Do-Not-Call Registry. To register, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236) from the number you wish to register. If you have an e-mail address, you can register online at www.donotcall.gov. Registration is free and will remain in effect for five years unless the number is disconnected or you remove it from the registry. After five years you must renew your registration.

Ask to be put on “Do Not Call” lists. When you receive a telemarketing call, say “Put me on your ‘do not call’ list.” Companies must keep this list and honor it for 10 years. Do not just say, “I’m not interested.” You must specifically ask to be put on the “Do Not Call” list to avoid future calls from that plan.

       
How To Avoid Scams Back to top
 

Unfortunately, some people will try to take advantage of the Medicare Part D enrollment process to scam Medicare participants. The scams will be designed to obtain your personal identification and financial information to steal your money or for identity theft. To help protect yourself, take the following precautions:

1) Protect the confidentiality of your sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security number, your Medicare number and your bank account numbers.

Do not give out any of this information unless you are ACTUALLY ENROLLING in a plan. People who are simply telling you about a plan DO NOT NEED and SHOULD NOT ask you for this type of information. You can give out your address and phone number to receive additional materials, but protect your personal identification numbers and financial information. Even once you are enrolling in a plan, DO NOT give out credit card numbers or bank account information to pay over the phone or Internet.  Make the plan send you a bill.

2) Know the rules companies offering plans MUST FOLLOW:

  • Companies could not begin marketing their plans until October 1, 2005.

  • Plans cannot begin enrolling people until November 15, 2005.

  • Legitimate plans will have a “Medicare-approved” seal on their materials.

  • Plan representatives CANNOT come to your home uninvited. They can call you about their plan if you are not on the “Do Not Call” list.

  • Plans CANNOT enroll you over the telephone unless YOU call THEM or unless you are adding prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan or other Medicare health plan you already have.

  • Plans CANNOT ask for payment over the telephone or the Internet. The plan must send you a bill. DO NOT give out a credit card or bank account number over the phone or online.

3) Make sure you enroll with a legitimate plan approved by Medicare . Once you choose a plan, call 1-800-MEDICARE or go to www.medicare.gov to make sure your plan is legitimate and approved by Medicare. Check the company name, address, telephone number and Web site. For a complete list of the companies and plans approved for Illinois, go to /www.medicare.gov/medicarereform/map.asp and click on Illinois on the map.

If you enroll with a plan directly rather than through Medicare, MAKE SURE you are dealing with an actual representative of the plan, the plan’s actual Web site, or the plan’s correct paper application. If you enroll over the phone, be sure YOU call the plan after checking its number with Medicare rather than letting the plan call you.

Senior Medicare Patrols. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has partnered with the Suburban Area Agency on Aging to increase the number of Senior Medicare Patrols across the state. Senior Medicare Patrols are senior volunteers trained to identify and report Medicare fraud and other types of fraud and to educate other seniors. For more information about this program, click here.

*NOTE* If you think you have been a victim of fraud or improper sales practices during this enrollment process, please call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-964-3013 or the Suburban Area Agency on Aging’s toll free number at 1-800-699-9043.

To educate yourself about how fraud might occur in the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, see the Attorney General’s column, Beware of Fraud When Choosing a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.

       

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