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For Immediate Release
November 15, 2005
Media Contact:
Kevin Enright 410-576-6357

A Message from Attorney General Joe Curran
"Slow but steady wins the race"—Aesop’s lesson from the Tortoise and the Hare

The race to sign up many of Maryland’s 700,000 Medicare beneficiaries for a new federal prescription drug benefit program is underway, and never has one of Aesop’s fables been more relevant. Anyone who remembers the Tortoise and the Hare will recall that the wise tortoise knew he must work hard to beat the speedy hare, and his persistence was what won him the prize. It is my hope that anyone who is planning to choose one of the many plans offered to Maryland Medicare beneficiaries will use this same tactic— slow but steady.

While the new drug benefit, known as "Medicare Part D," will be of considerable help to some seniors struggling to pay for high-priced prescription drugs, the marketing campaign by the 18 companies offering plans in Maryland is also full of potential pitfalls. Two dangers concern me the most: making the wrong decision about Medicare Part D, and becoming a victim of scam artists. First, the barrage of mailings, phone calls, emails and other sales pitches has already started, and it will create an environment ripe for exploitation by scam artists seeking personal identification or financial information for identity theft and other fraud. Second, the marketing avalanche and staggering complexity of sorting out 67 different plans will make people feel overwhelmed and susceptible to making bad decisions which could have enormous consequences.

To combat scams, first make sure you are dealing with a legitimate, Medicare-approved plan; check the company’s name, address, phone number and website by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. Second, safeguard your sensitive personal information. When telemarketers or sales representatives call or contact you, do not give out your Social Security or Medicare numbers, or credit card and bank account numbers. Even when YOU contact a plan to enroll, when you will need to provide your Social Security number, don’t give out credit card or bank account numbers. Make the plan send you a bill.

As for dealing with legitimate Medicare Part D plan marketers, you will have to work as hard as the tortoise to choose the right plan for you. You need to decide first whether you should enroll in a Part D plan in the first place. If you already have a prescription drug plan, Part D may not be best for you. You also need to learn about the differences in the drugs covered, pharmacies used, and costs imposed by the 67 plans. Plans will charge different premiums, deductibles and co-payments. If you have a limited income, you also need to find out whether you qualify for assistance in paying for a Part D plan.

One shortcut I can offer my fellow tortoises is my website at www.oag.state.md.us It provides basic information about how to navigate this confusing process, some do's and don'ts, and enrollment dates and deadlines. It will also direct you to agencies, phone numbers and websites where you can get expert, unbiased help. To be done right, this process will take awhile. But remember the Tortoise’ s final words, "Slowly does it every time."


 

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