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Official warns card applicants of possible fraud

A Medicaid official is warning applicants to beware of fraudwhen applying for the Medicare prescription drug card that becameavailable June 1.

“It’s sad to say, but there are people out there who are takingadvantage of this complicated situation to rob our elderly and ourpoor,” said Francis Rullan, director of public relations forMississippi’s Medicaid division. “Be very careful about givinginformation to someone who does not have a Medicare or Medicaidphoto identification badge.”

Three reports of fraud from a person or people posing as aMedicare or Medicaid representative to get medical and privateinformation have already crossed his desk, Rullan said.

“There is some fraud going on with this. We’re not sendinganyone to anybody’s house,” he said. “Everything should beconducted through the offices.”

Rullan said he was not aware if arrests were made in the threereports.

“I didn’t follow up on those,” he said. “I referred them totheir local law enforcement agency. That’s as far as I go withthat.”

People who suspect they may have been a victim of fraud or mayhave avoided a fraud attempt are encouraged to report the incidentto the Medicaid offices at 1-800-880-5920 and to notify their locallaw enforcement agency.

Medicare prescription drug cards became effective June 1 as thestate began to phase out its Poverty Level Aged and Disabled (PLAD)program. The approximately 65,000 Mississippians enjoying thebenefits of that program should seek a Medicare card to help thempurchase drugs until they are moved under the new MedicareModernization Act that becomes effective Jan. 1, 2006, Rullansaid.

To receive a Medicare card, Rullan said, people enrolled in PLADshould take the letter of Medicaid benefits termination theyreceived from Medicaid to a Medicare office, where therepresentative there will enroll them in the program. There is nodeadline or late enrollment penalty.

Enrollment forms are also available at the official Medicarewebsite, www.medicare.gov.

The Medicare card provides $600 in prescription relief for 2004and an additional $600 for 2005. Any funds not used in 2004 are”rolled over” to 2005.

The Medicare cards are used in conjunction with manufacturers’drug discount cards to provide savings ranging from 11 to 17percent on average retail prices, with significantly largerdiscounts on mail-order drugs. Savings on generic drugs are evenlarger, ranging between 30 to 60 percent or more, according toRullan.

A Medicaid representative will help a customer find the bestmanufacturer’s discount card to supplement their Medicare cardbased on the prescription drugs the customer takes, Rullansaid.

“This whole thing is to bridge the 18-month span before the newMedicare program kicks in,” he said.

When it becomes effective, the newly-enacted prescription drugbenefits from the new federal Medicare Modernization Act will bebetter than what Medicaid currently provides for PLADsbeneficiaries , Rullan said.

The drug cards became necessary because when the new Medicareplan becomes effective, the federal government will stop paying afederal match rate for prescription drug coverage for any Medicaidbeneficiary who is also eligible for Medicare.

That included all but 5,000 of the enrollees in the PLADprogram, Rullan said. The state government is currently seekingwaivers to provide for the 5,000 who do not have dual eligibility,he said.