Tips for selecting the best Medicare discount card
The Medicare discount card program starts in June 2004. This Medicare discount card is primarily for seniors and low-income folks.
The Medicare discount card, which will be good until the end of 2005, will offer a 10% to 25% discount on prescription drugs. This Medicare discount card program is meant to be 'transitional' until full Medicare drug benefits kick in, in 2006.
The problem is that there are several Medicare-approved discount drug cards to choose from, and it's difficult to sort through all the available information to make the best choices.
The worst part is that you won't be able to change your mind once you've chosen a particular card.
Here are some tips to help you decide which Medicare discount card to choose:
1. Check out the Medicare website itself and read all the available information to determine your options. Some Medicare discount cards will have an enrolment fee (it will be a maximum $30).
Ask yourself: Are the drugs you need on the card's list of discounted drugs? Will the drugstore you personally deal with accept that particular card? What's the actual discount amount, and how much will you save?
2. Check out the prices for the specific drugs (by name and dosage) that you normally require. See if you can find a Medicare discount card that includes all of your medications, or at least the most expensive ones.
3. Alternatively, check with your pharmacist or doctor to see if there is a 'generic' equivalent for your prescription. If the generic brand is on the Medicare discount card list, it is often significantly cheaper than a 'brand name,' and you could save a lot of money.
4. If you are on a low income (i.e., less than $12,569 for a single person; $16,862 for a married couple) you may be eligible to have the Medicare discount card enrolment fee waived, and to receive a $600 annual credit toward your prescription costs.
Watch out for scammers
With the amount of confusion surrounding this new Medicare discount card program, it's no surprise that scammers have found a way to use it to their advantage. Here are four ways to ensure you're not being scammed:
1. The cards will NOT be available for your use before June - so if anyone has tried to 'sell' you one before that, it's a scam. Fake Medicare discount cards have already turned up in Georgia, Idaho and Tennessee. Authentic Medicare discount cards will be stamped with a federal government seal.
2. You should have received an informational letter from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, containing an illustration of the official government seal and telling you how and when to apply for the card. If you are contacted in any other way to 'apply' or asked to give out your personal information -- such as credit card or bank account numbers -- in order to get a card, you're probably being scammed.
3. Card sponsors will be advertising their cards through the public media -- television, radio and newspapers, for example -- but will NOT conduct 'cold-calls.' Unless you've requested further information from an ad or direct mail piece, you should not get a phone call about the Medicare discount card program.
4. Once you have a card, don't give it to anyone else. You are the only authorized user of your Medicare discount card.
If you suspect fraud
If you think that someone is behaving fraudulently in regard to the Medicare discount card, you can contact the Inspector General's confidential hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) or 1-800-MEDICARE.