Every year seniors lose billions of dollars because of Medicare fraud. While pinpointing a total cost of Medicare fraud is difficult, sources including Attorney General Eric Holder and theU.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging have estimated
the annual total at $60 billion and $90 billion.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to fraud because they are less likely to report fraud, are more likely to have some amount of money, are generally trusting of others, do not make reliable witnesses, and need products that are easy to turn into scams, according to the FBI
Often, medical equipment manufactures will offer seniors medical products or serviced in exchange for just their Medicare card number. Unbeknownst to many elderly Americans, these offers, which are often via phone calls, are scammers who later obtain fraudulent doctors signatures in order to get money from Medicare plans.
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Medicare fraud can, however, be avoided. Below are four ways to avoid falling victim to Medicare fraud:
1. Protect Your Numbers
"There can never be a fraudulent claim against Medicare unless a Medicare number is used as the basis for the claim," Micki Nozaki, California Medicare Patrol complex case and volunteer coordinator told the Los Angeles Times
. Medicare numbers are usually the same as a person’s Social Security number, so most people already know not to give out their number. However, seniors are often too easily convinced of con artists’ credibility, and are too willing to release their information in exchange for promised medical services.
2. Keep Good Records
Always know when you are scheduled to visit doctors in the future, and when you have in the past. Also keep records of what you have and will pay. MyMedicare.gov allows Medicare enrollees to check their account for irregularities. Additionally, Medicare sends patients a Medicare Summary Notice every 90 days, which can be useful in monitoring for fraud.
3. Report All Irregularities
If you notice something out-of-the-ordinary with your Medicare accounts or statements, it is important to report the incident right away. Incorrect charges could make getting equipment and services someone needs in the future difficult and unnecessarily costly. To report suspected Medicare fraud, contact the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at 800-HHS-TIPS or at www.oig.hhs.gov.
4. Never Leave Blanks
Never sign blank insurance forms or allow medical providers to fill in costs for services rendered without your oversight. A scammer can easily fill in blanks to snatch up the Medicare funds to which you are entitled.
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