Medicare Marketing Scams

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Mary Solis thought she'd be busy enrolling seniors in Medicare drug plans about now. Instead, the coordinator for an anti-fraud program in South Texas has helped dozens of older adults get out of them.

"They were sold drug plans that didn't cover many of their prescriptions," she said. "Some have paid a couple of hundred dollars a month for drugs that should have cost them only a few dollars."

As the May 15 deadline approaches for joining a Medicare drug plan, senior advocates are warning older adults to guard against scams and deceptive marketing.

Medicare recently issued a "scam alert" about a telephone scheme in which a con artist caller offers a fake drug plan for a one-time $299 fee as a trick to get the beneficiary's bank account number.

More common have been sales techniques that violate Medicare's rules for marketing drug plans.

The violations include posing as a Medicare representative, visiting someone's home uninvited, charging a fee to help find a drug plan and offering a gift worth more than $15 to enroll.

One of the most common abuses has been telling seniors that the government requires them to buy drug coverage.

"Some people don't understand the new benefit is voluntary, so they end up purchasing something they don't want," said Mark Narvaez, manager of state operations for AARP Texas.

Advocates say seniors have also complained they were deceived into buying comprehensive health coverage from a Medicare managed-care plan when all they needed was the drug insurance.

-"Seniors warned to be on guard," by Bob Moos, Dallas Morning News, April 3
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