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Florida Seniors Urged to Beware of Scams When Choosing New Medicare Prescription Coverage

10/19/2005

CONTACT:
Tami Torres or Bob Lotane
(850) 413-2842
 
One-Stop Shopping for Information and Resources Made Available
 
TALLAHASSEE – With the start date for enrolling in the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program less than a month away, Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer reported that his department's consumer helpline is getting calls from Floridians looking for help signing up for the new coverage. Also, incidents of possible scams to take advantage of seniors have been reported by Medicare officials.   
 
"I am deeply concerned that scam artists will exploit seniors interested in new options under Medicare," said Gallagher.  "We will aggressively pursue those who attempt to rip off the elderly.  I urge Florida seniors to log onto our Senior Resource Center at www.flseniors.net and to avoid fraudulent offerings." 
 
Gallagher said there are approximately three million Medicare beneficiaries in Florida eligible for the new Part D coverage.  But he urged eligible seniors to seriously consider signing up for a Medicare plan unless they have existing coverage that is equal to the Medicare plan.  If an individual lacks coverage and doesn't sign up during open enrollment, a penalty of as much as one-percent per month could be added to the monthly premium. 
 
Gallagher offered tips to seniors to avoid becoming victims of Medicare Part D scam artists:
 
• Beware of door-to-door salesmen. Agents cannot solicit business at your home without an appointment.

• Seniors cannot be asked to enroll in a plan prior to Nov. 15, 2005.
• Seniors should never give personal information unless the person or the product is approved by Medicare.
• Salesmen are not allowed to ask seniors for personal information when marketing products.
• Questions about products being offered can be answered at 1-800-MEDICARE.  If fraud is suspected, seniors should call the U.S. Health and Human Services Inspector General at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.
 
One-stop shopping for website links and toll-free phone numbers to numerous state and federal contacts is available at http://www.flseniors.net/ or by calling the Department of Financial Services consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762. 
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.