When Medicare is defrauded by crooked providers, pharmacists, or any person posing as an expert who can make a telephone call or door to door solicitation, we all lose. Our tax dollars foot the bills. Anyone keeping an eye out for an elderly loved one knows the usual scams. The challenge is that the crooked folks keep coming up with new ploys to dupe Medicare recipients, and Medicare processes 4.4 million claims each day, all of which must be paid within 30 days. If you are a caregiver to a Medicare beneficiary or you, yourself are “of an age,” here are some of the latest scams.
- Bait and Switch
Okay, the notion of offering something that appears legitimate and of value, but then swapping it for something worth a lot less is not new. The latest scam, however, is new in that it promises a new high-tech osteoarthritis kit that “Medicare will reimburse.” So, the scammers promise state of the art, but they deliver cheap Velcro braces. And they bill Medicare for the high-end goods.
- No Place Like Home
Along the same lines of the bait and switch for arthritis, scammers have been known to deliver health services or other domestic help services to Medicare beneficiaries in their homes. But it is when the scammers turn around and up-bill Medicare for more costly professional services that the taxpayers get taken for a ride.
- Mental Wealth
Still another scam involves mental health services in outpatient settings. Medicare recipients are referred to an outpatient facility that in reality is just a social gathering. Socialization is good for one’s mental health, but the scammers up-charge Medicare for a psychological consultation instead. And as with the other scams, the taxpayers pick up the tab.
Medicare paid nearly one-quarter trillion dollars in 2013-the latest data available, and estimates of fraud range from 10% of this total to as high as 30%, but there are measures we all can take to help address these criminal activities. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommend:
• Know your coverage under Medicare so that you are not duped by scammers.
• Guard your Medicare number as closely as you do your social security number.
• Beware of any medical service provider who reaches out to you unsolicited.
• Ask your personal physician about any and all service or device prescriptions.
• Scrutinize your monthly Medicare statements for anything unusual.
• Say something if you see something…don’t hesitate to call 1-800-MEDICARE.
All of this will help you or an older loved one to not fall victim to scammers, and it will keep the money with the taxpayers instead of the scammers.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Professional and a Geriatric Care
Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.