Senior citizens are urged to be on the lookout for fraud as they begin to receive their $250 rebates for Medicare Part D prescription drug costs under the new federal health care reforms.
The one-time, tax-free rebate is being sent to eligible senior citizens to help them pay for the "doughnut hole" -- the gap above the initial prescription drug coverage limit but below the point where catastrophic coverage begins.
"Don't give out personal information to anyone who calls you about the $250 rebate check, "said New York State Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn. There have been reports in some states that senior citizens are being contacted and told that they must disclose personal information to receive their rebates or that rebate checks must be transferred to a third party. This is simply not true."
So far, there have been no reports of this specific type of Medicare fraud in New York State. However, other states have reported that seniors are being contacted and asked for personal information such as their Social Security and bank account numbers. Some seniors have been told, falsely, that they can get their rebates faster by paying an upfront fee.
Filling the 'doughnut hole'
The federal government is now mailing the rebate checks to eligible individuals after they reach the "doughnut hole" coverage gap. Individuals enrolled in some private benefits plans or those enrolled in the Medicare Extra Help plan are not eligible.
Under the federal health care reforms, the $250 rebate is the first in a series of steps that will be undertaken through 2020 to eliminate the so-called "doughnut hole" gap. Currently, Medicare beneficiaries whose drug costs reach $2,830 must pay all additional drug costs until their total out-of-pocket expenses reach $4,550 when coverage kicks in again.
Senior citizens who suspect they have been contacted improperly should contact the Insurance Department, the New York State Office for the Aging, or their local Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP).
Detailed information about the $250 rebate may be obtained directly from Medicare by contacting 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for assistance.
Senior citizens may also contact the Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bureau between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday toll-free at 800-342-3736. Information is also available on the Department's website.
Seniors wishing to file complaints are encouraged to use the electronic complaint form on the Department's website, or to call or write to the Consumer Services Bureau, NYS Insurance Department, One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY 12257.