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Wash. Officials Warn Of Medicare Scams

Ruby de Luna
05/10/2010

Beware of sales pitches that promise health coverage under so–called government health care reform or plans related to the new health care law. That's the warning from federal and Washington state officials.

TRANSCRIPT

The new health care law has created an opportunity for fraud. Often scammers pose as insurance agents or government workers. They prey on elderly people. John Hammarlund is regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Seattle.

Hammarlund: "We've heard of scammers who are calling up beneficiaries, telling them that they're with Obamacare. And that they'd be eligible for $250 rebate because they either have, or will hit, the so–called coverage gap under Part D, which is the prescription part of Medicare, and if they only send their credit card and their social security number, a check will come in the mail."

For the record, Hammarlund says there's no such program called Obamacare. And the $250 rebate he mentioned? That's a one–time subsidy for Medicare beneficiaries whose out–of–pocket prescription costs exceed $2,830. And it's not an automatic payment.

Hammarlund: "One has to hit the coverage gap, first of all, and we're still working out the details on how the rebates come to seniors, and exactly when they'll come to seniors."

So there's no such thing as a middle person that can speed up the rebate process. Hammarlund says so far they haven't received reports of scams. Neither has the state insurance commissioner's office. But both agencies say it's only a matter of time. There are so many changes to health care that are about to take place. So it's natural for some initial confusion, which works to the scammers' advantage. Hammarlund says they'll be sending out printed materials and holding public meetings with local agencies in the coming months when more details about the new law become final. For now, officials urge the public to be on guard.

I'm Ruby de Luna, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2010, KUOW

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