Consumer Alert! New Medicare Scams

_CAThis month’s AARP Magazine includes important consumer information about con artists scamming the Medicare programs. These con artists are doing a lot of things to rip off Medicare, including the following that you should be aware of. 1) Calling seniors offering quick solutions for chronic pain, getting your Medicare number, sending you a box of cheap junk, including cheap topical creams, and then billing Medicare for hundreds of dollars. 2) Going door to door selling “arthritis kits” promising relief from joint discomfort, giving cheap Velcro braces and billing Medicare $3000. 3) Setting up phony home health care agencies and then billing Medicare for a wide range of services that are not provided, or if provided, are basic junk services. 4) Setting up phony mental health centers and billing Medicare patients to get “mental health” treatment every day. 5) Billing Medicare for frivolous physical therapy when no such services are provided, including a kickback to so called patients.

Scammers are ripping off Medicare for billions of dollars a year. Each month some 18,000 new “providers” enter the Medicare system—some of them outright crooks. Some years ago fraud investigators put a stop to the motorized wheelchair and scooters scam where crooked providers provided clients with cheap scooters then billed Medicare for thousands of dollars. As a result of an investigation Medicare spending on motorized scooters dropped from $686 million in 2007 to $190 million in 2013. Still, crooks and scammers are every creative to get in on “free money” from Medicare which must pay claims within 30 days—not enough time to weed out crooks. But, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action, known as HEAT, has upped it game and is sending hundreds of these crooks to jail for defrauding Medicare. So what can you do?

Guard your Medicare card—do not give your number to anyone, especially over the phone. Beware of “cold calls” from medical suppliers offering you free or cheap products for chronic pain or arthritis. Beware of doctors you don’t know prescribing medications on your behalf. Review your Medicare statements for questionable charges and report unknown charges to Medicare. Go to the website stopmedicarefraud.gov or call 800-633-4227 if you suspect fraudulent activity with any Medicare provider.

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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