There is an old Medicare scam out there that is increasingly a problem. It basically involves calling seniors and offering them something for free. Everyone loves free! Seniors with health issues are especially prone to think more care is better than less. When there are 60 million people on Medicare, it’s bound to attract fraudsters.
With Medicare being a multi-billion dollar plan, there are scammers out there who are taking advantage of and abusing the system by tricking those of you who are on Medicare. That’s why the AARP Fraud Watch Network is taking a stand and warning all Medicare patients to watch out for this new scam.
The most recent scam affecting Medicare beneficiaries relates to “free” medical equipment. Scammers who are disguising themselves as Medicare representatives are making unsolicited calls to people under the guise of Medicare and offering them free medical devices such as back braces.
Additionally, if you do end up receiving any equipment from these scammers, the equipment will likely be super low-quality and not useful to you.
I don’t know why they’re calling it “the most recent scam affecting Medicare beneficiaries.” This has been around for a long time. Supplying unnecessary durable medical equipment (DME) has been a source of fraud in Medicare for as long as I’ve been studying Medicare.
These scammers are extremely pushy, imploring people to agree to receive the equipment even if they don’t want or need it, all because it’s free. However, to process the benefit, the scammer will ask the caller for their Medicare number, giving them access to all the private medical information that the caller has on record.
It sort of makes me wonder if a way around this wouldn’t be to require a physician order from their primary care physician before receiving DME. A random caller should not be able to send needless equipment and bill Medicare.
For starters, giving out your Medicare number is extremely dangerous. Not only does it allow scammers access to all your medical information, it also can cause Medicare to pay for fraudulent claims or even allow someone to impersonate you to get free healthcare. It could also put incorrect information on your medical records, which could be detrimental to your health.
Years ago a nurse practitioner friend told me about an elderly patient who came in asking for a power wheelchair prescription. She had seen an advertisement or was somehow approached by a seller of powered wheelchairs. The nurse practitioner refused to authorize it. The patient didn’t meet Medicare’s criteria and she knew it would lead to further health decline. Walking was the only exercise her patient got and a wheelchair would be like putting one foot in the grave. She tried to explain this to her patient. The persistent power chair seller offered to have one of their doctors write a prescription for it. I’ve even heard stories about poor seniors getting paid for a powerchair prescription that they agreed they wouldn’t receive. The powerchair would be retained by the sellers, who could sell the same powerchair for $3,500 to $5,000 a pop to other poor seniors (on paper). In a 2011 investigation, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that 61% of Medicare claims for powered wheelchairs “were either medically unnecessary or lacked sufficient documentation to determine medical necessity.” In 2014 The Washington Post referred to this as a Medicare scam that just kept rolling. The following is an interesting piece by The CATO Institute that further explained the fraud.