/publications/issue/2005/2005-12/2005-12-5034

Consumer Fraud Mars Medicare Rx Program

Author: Ken Rankin

While pharmacists across the country were working to help seniors understand their benefits under the new Medicare prescription drug program, health care hucksters were finding creative ways to use the program to defraud consumers and the government. Among the more disturbing practices uncovered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS): bogus prescription plan sponsors who are using the new Medicare benefit as a ruse to engage in identity theft.

With the January 1, 2006, deadline for implementing the new benefit looming, federal Medicare officials announced a campaign to "fight fraud and abuse and help people with Medicare protect themselves" from scammers. As part of that effort, CMS is using outside "Rx Integrity Contractors" to investigate potentially fraudulent activity in connection with the new program, and pharmacists are being urged to help seniors protect themselves against these fraudulent practices.

In calling on Medicare beneficiaries to consult with their pharmacists concerning the new program, officials at the American Pharmacists Association said, "The nation's pharmacists are ready to help protect their patients from phony marketers and unscrupulous operators."

Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.