The new Medicare discount drug program takes effect in June. Critics charge the program has plenty of drawbacks. Now there's another problem — scam artists selling bogus cards to unsuspecting Medicare recipients. Consumer Reports has what to look out for so you don't get ripped off.
With the high cost of medicine, a new government program is supposed to help cut prescription costs for seniors and people with disabilities who have no other drug coverage. Beginning in June, they'll be able to choose from a number of discount drug cards approved by Medicare.
But, Consumer Reports' Mandy Walker says before the program even gets underway, phony Medicare drug cards have started showing up.
"There have been reports across the country of people going either door-to-door or calling on the phone selling 'Medicare-approved' discount drug cards. Well, they're all scams. In fact it's illegal to sell any Medicare product over the phone or door-to-door."
When the Medicare-approved cards do come out, you'll be able to check they're legitimate at the government's web site —Medicare.gov. Here’s how the cards will work.
"With the Medicare card programs you pay an annual fee of up to 30 dollars and you may get discounts on certain prescriptions of 10 to 25 percent. Low-income families will get a more generous benefit."
Consumers will have to choose from an array of cards offered by different companies. That won't be easy. And Consumer Reports says the Medicare drug program has other drawbacks.
Not all drugs are covered by each card.
Prices for drugs will vary depending on which card you choose.
And prices can change weekly without notifying you.
"It's going to be pretty complicated to figure out which card program is best for you — if any. You may find you'll do better with a discount drug card you already own."
Once the new drug program takes effect in June, you can get help comparing the cards at a Web site called medicarerights.org. In the meantime, Consumer Reports has found some of the lowest prices for prescription drugs at Costco and Target and on Web sites like Drugstore.com.