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Tool kits help seniors avoid Medicare drug-plan fraud

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Alabamians on Medicare have a new tool to help them recognize scam artists who try to influence senior citizens’ decisions about Medicare prescription drug plans.

As of Monday, 100,000 Medicare Protection Toolkits became available across the state through the state Department of Senior Services and local senior centers. Release of the printed information comes a month before the yearly Medicare open enrollment period to choose or change a Medicare drug plan begins.

Open enrollment for the plans begins Nov. 15 and goes through Dec. 31. During that period, representatives of insurance companies in the drug plan program may contact senior citizens and try to sign them up. But sometimes the contacts are not what they first seem.

“Seniors now have choices when it comes to their Medicare prescription drug plans. That’s a good thing, but scam artists are using it as an opportunity to try to mislead seniors and trick them. These tool kits will help Alabama’s seniors to spot, stop and avoid health care fraud,” Gov. Bob Riley said.

A $75,000 grant from the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation, the charity arm of the Alabama Association for Justice, paid for the kits, which are a joint effort of the Association for Justice and the Senior Services Department’s Healthcare Fraud Advocacy and Outreach Council.

Association for Justice Communications Director Niko Corley said sometimes during open enrollment, people hired to direct seniors toward a particular plan may do so whether or not the choice is the best option.

Occasionally, people use the open enrollment period to obtain a person’s Medicare information unethically. “Seniors ought to guard their Medicare card just as they do their Social Security card,” Corley said.

Senior Services Director Irene Collins said her department wanted easy-to-follow information available so senior citizens can make intelligent decisions about drug plans. It is important for people covered by Medicare to know when people claiming to represent a drug plan are fraudulent marketers, she said.

The kits give seniors the tools they need to make informed decisions, Collins said. “Better informed and educated seniors are less likely to be the target or victim of fraud,” she added.

Each tool kit contains questions to ask salespeople, facts about health care benefits options and what to look for before choosing a plan. The kit also lists four steps seniors can take to safeguard their personal Medicare information.

Senior citizens and Medicare recipients can request a kit by calling (800) 243-5463 or by visiting their local Area Agency on Aging or senior center.

Kits are also online at www.AlabamaAgeline.gov.

The Association for Justice was formerly the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association.

Medicare Protection Toolkits

  • Available online at www.AlabamaAgeline.gov

  • Available by calling (800) 243-5463

  • Available by visiting local Area Agency on Aging or senior center

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