Avoid new Medicare rebate scam

The New York State Insurance Department is warning senior citizens – don’t get cheated out of your $250 Medicare rebate check.

The one-time, tax-free rebate is being sent to eligible senior citizens to help them pay for the so-called “doughnut hole” in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage under the new federal health care reforms.

“Don’t give out personal information to anyone who calls you about the $250 rebate check,” said Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn.

The federal government is now mailing the rebate checks to eligible individuals after they reach the coverage gap. Currently, Medicare beneficiaries whose drug costs reach $2,830 must pay all additional drug costs until their total out-of-pocket expenses reach $4,550 – when coverage kicks in again.

As the checks have gone out, reports have been surfacing from other states that senior citizens are being contacted and told that they must disclose personal information to receive their rebates or that rebate checks must be transferred to a third party.

“This is simply not true,” Wrynn said.

Seniors in other states are being contacted and asked for personal information such as their Social Security and bank account numbers. Some seniors have been told, falsely, that they can get their rebates faster by paying an upfront fee, according to Wrynn.

Under the federal health care reforms, the $250 rebate is the first in a series of steps that will be undertaken through 2020 to eliminate the gap. Individuals enrolled in some private benefits plans or those enrolled in the Medicare Extra Help plan are not eligible.

Senior citizens who suspect they have been contacted improperly should contact the Insurance Department, the New York State Office for the Aging, or their local Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP).

Detailed information about the $250 rebate may be obtained directly from Medicare by contacting 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227), or www.medicare.gov, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for assistance.

Seniors may also contact the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at 800-342-3736. Information is also available on the department’s web site, www.ins.state.ny.us.

Seniors wishing to file complaints are encouraged to use the electronic complaint form on the department’s web site, or to call or write to the Consumer Services Bureau, NYS Insurance Department, One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY 12257.