Government Warns Medicare Beneficiaries Against Prescription Drug Card Scams
CMS officials on Thursday warned that people in a number of states are targeting Medicare beneficiaries with "fraudulent ... schemes" related to the new prescription drug discount card program, AP/Long Island Newsday reports. The discount card program, which will begin in May, was created as part of the new Medicare law to help beneficiaries save about 10% to 25% on their prescription drug costs until the program's prescription drug benefit takes effect in 2006. Medicare plans to announce which companies will be authorized to offer the prescription drug discount cards in the next few weeks, and it will begin advertising the program in May. Eleven states have reported instances of individuals making phone calls or door-to-door solicitations of seniors, "to ostensibly register" them for the new program. The individuals allegedly offer to enroll beneficiaries in exchange for their bank information, social security number or credit card number. States reporting such scams include Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington. Government officials warned that seniors should be on guard against such solicitations and emphasized that Medicare contacts its beneficiaries only by mail. "It's so appalling these individuals are willing to create schemes that take advantage ... of a law intended to do so much good," Leslie Norwalk, deputy administrator of CMS, said (Barrett, AP/Long Island Newsday, 3/18).
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday launched a "multimillion dollar, nationwide television and radio campaign" to support the new Medicare law and educate seniors about it, CongressDaily reports. Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president, said the ads are intended to inform seniors about "how the new drug discount card or prescription benefit will work for them," adding that the chamber will eventually focus its education efforts on local markets, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 3/18).
The Washington Post on Friday examined reaction on Capitol Hill concerning the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct's announcement that it will launch a formal investigation into allegations that unnamed Republican lawmakers last November improperly pressured Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) to vote in favor of the Medicare legislation. The committee's move could "signal the start of reinvigorated ethics investigations after years of apparent inaction" or it could indicate that "the panel simply yielded to public pressure to look into allegations impossible to ignore," the Post reports (Babington, Washington Post, 3/19). In December, Smith, who plans to retire this year, said that unnamed Republican lawmakers promised to donate $100,000 to his son's congressional campaign in exchange for his support on the Medicare bill. However, Smith later retracted the comment and said that allegations of bribery are "technically incorrect." According to Smith, some Republican lawmakers had said that they would oppose his son's campaign if he did not vote in favor of the Medicare legislation, but they did not offer to donate funds to the campaign, as previous reports had indicated. Smith voted against the Medicare legislation (California Healthline, 3/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.