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Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

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AG Warns Seniors That Con Artists May Try To Take Advantage Of Confusion Over The New Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card Program

May 3, 2004

Attorney General Hardy Myers today warned older Oregonians of "identity thieves" that are taking advantage of the confusion over the new Medicare prescription drug discount card program by calling residents and asking for bank account and credit card numbers or other personal information. These same unscrupulous telemarketers also are selling so-called discount drug cards that don't reduce prescription costs.

The prescription drug discount cards can legally be sold beginning today but are not effective until June 1, 2004. The cards are expected to provide savings of 10-25 percent off retail prescription drug prices, with additional assistance available for low-income beneficiaries.

"We want our older consumers to take advantage of any drug discounts that they are eligible for through this Medicare-approved program but they must be aware of con artists on the telephone, at the front door and those sending misleading information in the mail," Myers said. "Fifteen states are reporting consumers being tricked into giving personal information such as Social Security and credit card numbers to scammers. Some callers are posing as Medicare officials and some mailers are made to look like official correspondence from the federal government when in fact, they are not."

The Medicare Program is endorsing certain discount cards as a way to achieve savings but these cards may not be right for all older consumers and Medicare beneficiaries. Attorney General Myers is encouraging older consumers to study all their options with friends and family before purchasing one of these cards.

The discount cards also are being offered by private businesses and organizations. The Medicare program will only approve discount cards that meet certain standards, such as providing a range of different categories of discounted drugs, access to local pharmacies, and regular price comparisons for discounted drugs. While companies offering Medicare-approved discount cards can charge an annual fee of up to $30, about 25 percent of the companies will not charge any fee.

Older Oregonians are cautioned to study each drug discount card feature carefully and ask the following questions before purchasing the cards:
  • Is the card approved by Medicare?
  • Does this card cover the drugs I take?
  • Does this coverage ever change and how often?
  • How much money can I save using this card? (Calculate this by listing your monthly drug costs and calculate the savings the card would offer on each drug. Add it up and compare it to your current monthly bills for drugs.)
  • Does the pharmacy where I shop accept this card? Ask your pharmacist–do not rely on the literature from the card provider.

The following is a list of Medicare-approved card sponsors who are offering prescription drug discount programs to Medicare recipients throughout the nation. Two Medicare managed care plans, Health Net Life Insurance Company and PacifiCare of Oregon, Inc., are approved to offer regional cards in Oregon.

  • Aetna Health Management LLC
  • Caremark Advantage Inc.
  • Catalyst Rx
  • Medco Health Solutions Inc.
  • PMB Plus Inc.
  • PharmaCare Management Services Inc.
  • Pharmacy Care Alliance Inc.
  • Scrip Solutions LLC
  • SXC Health Solutions Inc.
  • United Healthcare Insurance Co. (with AARP)
  • WellPoint Pharmacy Management
  • Express Scripts Inc.
  • Argus Health Systems Inc.
  • Computer Sciences Corp.
  • WHP Health Initiatives Inc.
  • AdvancePCS Health LP
  • First Health Services Corp.
  • Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance LLC

Older Oregonians should be especially careful when buying cards not on the approved Medicare list because they may or may not meet the same standards as those on the Medicare-approved list.

Many organizations are currently offering prescription drug discount cards. They are advertised on television, in the newspapers, through the mail and over the Internet. Some of these cards are offered by established, familiar organizations such as pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy chains, advocacy organizations, and pharmacy benefit managers. And some cards are offered simply as a business venture.

Because the Attorney General's consumer protection office has received complaints about prescription drug discount cards in general and mail order drug companies, seniors are urged to ask all the same questions of these card companies as they did with the Medicare-approved companies and follow these safety practices:

  • Purchase a non-Medicare discount card only from a known and trusted company or organization.
  • Compare the costs and benefits of several cards before purchasing one. The costs and benefits may vary widely.
  • Prescription drug discount cards shouldn't cost more than $30 unless it provides significant additional benefits such as dental care or eyeglasses.
  • Read the fine print before you purchase anything.
  • Be cautious about giving out personal information such as your social security number or mother's maiden name. Never give out your bank account number or your pin numbers or passwords.
  • Keep a record of the organizations name, address and phone number. Keep copies of all information provided the company.
  • When you receive medication through the mail or from a pharmacy, always check to see if it is exactly what you ordered. If you have concerns, call your doctor.
  • If you believe that a discount card company's sales practices are unfair or deceptive, call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. The Oregon Department of Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.

Beneficiaries are now able to compare prices of drugs offered by the drug card programs online at www.medicare.gov or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. Additional information is available by calling the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at 1-800-633-4227 on online at www.cms.gov/medicarereform/.

Oregon seniors can receive more information on the new law and available benefits by calling Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA), a section of the state Insurance Division, toll-free at 1-800-722-4134.

Contact:

Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) jan.margosian@doj.state.or.us |
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