Partners in the State of Ohio’s Take Action - Protect Yourself from Fraud program are cautioning seniors with Medicare to be on the alert for a Part D prescription drug coverage scam involving the $250 “doughnut hole” rebate checks.
President Obama and Governor Strickland both warned seniors that scam artists are calling seniors to solicit their personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account information and Medicare numbers, incorrectly claiming they need this information to mail the Part D rebate check.
The first batch of one-time rebate checks, a result of the federal health care reform Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), has been mailed by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. The rebate checks will be mailed monthly throughout the year as new beneficiaries hit the doughnut hole, the portion of Part D coverage when a beneficiary pays all of his or her prescription drug costs out of pocket.
Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson and Aging Director Barbara Riley urge Ohio seniors to be vigilant and use the tools provided by the Take Action program to avoid becoming a victim and to report any unscrupulous activity.
“We want Ohio seniors to clearly understand that the federal government will be directly mailing them their Part D rebate check when they hit the doughnut hole,” Director Hudson said. “If someone says they need your personal information to mail you the rebate or they can help you get your check more quickly if you pay them a fee, immediately report this scam to the authorities.”
Last year, roughly 156,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Ohio hit the doughnut hole.
“This rebate program is a first and crucial step to improved prescription drug coverage for older Ohioans, and I am appalled that some people are exploiting this opportunity for personal gain,” Director Riley said. “Consumers who take an active role, seek information and take action against scams like this are key in making the schemes go away. Our aim is to arm all Ohioans against this and other types of consumer fraud.”
Take Action and AARP Ohio Tips and Information:
People with Part D who have paid more than $940 in out-of-pocket drug costs should automatically receive a check after reaching that threshold but you should save your receipts just in case. If you think you’ve reached the doughnut hole and don’t receive your check within a few months, having your receipts handy will be helpful when talking to Medicare.
Checks will be mailed automatically. Those who qualify can expect to receive their checks within 45 days of reaching the gap. The first rounds of checks were to arrive the week of June 10. Medicare tracks your drug costs for you. Once you reach the coverage gap, you will receive a check.
Your check will be mailed to the address Social Security uses to reach you. If you need to change your address, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213. If you prefer, a change of address may also be reported by calling or visiting your local Social Security office.
Protect yourself against scams. If an unsolicited visitor comes to your home or someone calls you saying they are a representative from Medicare and need personal information to process your Part D rebate, calmly request their personal information (e.g., name, business affiliation and phone number) and inform them you will call them back. Do not call them back, but instead, immediately contact the local police, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-282-0515 or online at www.speakoutohio.gov, or the Take Action program at 1-800-686-1526.
Launched in May, Take Action focuses on alerting consumers to types of deceptive sales practices and schemes currently occurring in annuities, living trusts, stranger-originated life insurance (STOLI), reverse mortgages, Medicare sales and health care fraud. Take Action also assists Ohioans in safeguarding their online information and warding off unwanted telemarketers and spammers.
A free consumer guide provides background facts on areas where people are exploited and serves as a workbook listing important questions to ask. The guide is available at www.takeaction.ohio.gov, an interactive Web site filled with tips on how to recognize, avoid and report fraud. Consumer stories about fraud and successful encounters overcoming it will be published on the website.