While pharmacists across the countrywere working to help seniors understandtheir benefits under the newMedicare prescription drug program,health care hucksters were finding creativeways to use the program todefraud consumers and the government.Among the more disturbingpractices uncovered by the Centers forMedicare and Medicaid Services (CMS):bogus prescription plan sponsors whoare using the new Medicare benefit as aruse to engage in identity theft.
With the January 1, 2006, deadlinefor implementing the new benefitlooming, federal Medicare officialsannounced a campaign to "fight fraudand abuse and help people withMedicare protect themselves" fromscammers. As part of that effort, CMS isusing outside "Rx Integrity Contractors"to investigate potentially fraudulentactivity in connection with thenew program, and pharmacists arebeing urged to help seniors protectthemselves against these fraudulentpractices.
In calling on Medicare beneficiariesto consult with their pharmacists concerningthe new program, officials atthe American Pharmacists Associationsaid, "The nation's pharmacists areready to help protect their patientsfrom phony marketers and unscrupulousoperators."
Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.