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CONSUMER ALERT

Thursday, March 4, 2004

From the Arkansas Attorney General

No Medicare discount cards have been approved, and enrollment does not begin until May, Attorney General Mike Beebe reminded Arkansans recently in response to confusion surrounding the new and complex Medicare prescription-drug-benefit law.

Beebe said he is concerned that Arkansas' seniors are going to be susceptible to scams that are already popping up here and elsewhere around the nation. Scam artists have been selling fake Medicare-discount cards to seniors by going door-to-door or through sales by telephone, under the guise that they are part of the Medicare law signed in December by President Bush.

"We've been getting complaints from seniors who are unsure about what the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 means to them," he said.

"While it's too early to summarize this 480-page law into a simple sound-bite, it's important to let the public know that no Medicare-discount cards have been approved and enrollment does not begin until May," Beebe stated.

Beneficiaries can sign up for the cards in May and start using them in June. But already, the Attorney General said, some people are promoting the cards as if they had received a federal seal of approval.

In April, the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin mailing informational letters to all Medicare recipients. The letters will contain an illustration of the official government seal and will tell seniors how and where to apply for the cards.

Beneficiaries should not give anyone their personal identifying information. Medicare has not begun its enrollment, marketing or outreach process yet for the prescription-discount-drug program.

The discount card will offer temporary assistance to the elderly and disabled until Medicare provides a full-fledged drug benefit in January 2006.

For more information, the attorney general recommends visiting the official Medicare Web site, www.medicare.gov, or calling toll-free 1-800-MEDICARE. Beebe said anyone receiving suspicious offers of drug-discount cards should contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office.

Attorney General Mike Beebe can be reached at 323 Center Street, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201 or 501-682-2007.