June 09, 2010

Seniors covered by Medicare Part D to receive $250 rebate checks - state officials warn of scams

Medicare will begin sending checks June 10

VIDEO: Communications Director Travis Ford warns about rebate check scams

Jefferson City, Mo. - Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff says seniors who have reached the coverage gap or "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D will begin receiving rebate checks for $250 next week. These one-time, tax-free checks are the first step in reducing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap as outlined in the new federal health care reform law. The federal government estimates more than 80,000 Missourians will get a rebate check by the end of this year.

Consumers covered under Medicare Part D are automatically eligible to receive a check once they reach the coverage gap. Seniors do not have to buy a new policy or modify their existing one in any way to qualify. Consumers who reach the "doughnut hole" can expect a check within 45 days.

"Policyholders are entitled to these checks - there are no extra hurdles to jump through and no strings attached," said Huff.

Huff also warned that while the checks will bring financial relief, seniors could become a prime target for scam artists. Anyone asking for Medicare, Social Security or bank account numbers in order to receive a check is a scammer, he added.

"Consumers need to be aware that no one working for the government will ever request personal information before a check can be sent," said Huff. "Seniors are often the target of this kind of scam, so they need to be extra vigilant and not provide personal information to anyone contacting them."

Huff says Missouri has received reports of scams in connection with the health care reform law. In April, a senior in St. Charles County reported a visit from someone claiming to be a federal employee selling "Obamacare" policies. Federal agents do not sell insurance, and there is no such thing as an "Obamacare" policy.

Consumers can report a scam or verify an agent or company by calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390 or visiting insurance.mo.gov. Scams can also be reported directly to Medicare by calling 800-MEDICARE or visiting stopmedicarefraud.gov.