Unfortunately, unscrupulous people love to target the elderly, and the practice of Medicare fraud is becoming all too common.
Medicare fraud is one of those activities that make you shake your head in disgust, wondering how some people can sink so low just to make an illicit buck. What’s next, stealing from orphans?
To some people, Medicare fraud may seem like a victimless crime, equivalent to gaming the system to squeeze out a few bucks. But let’s get real. Like most “victimless” crimes, it hurts everyone involved, and raises costs that people on fixed incomes already have enough trouble paying.
Medicare fraud comes in two general types, one much more common than the other. Identity thieves perpetrate the first kind.
Basically, they steal your personal information in some way — by taking it from your mail, or off the Internet, or somehow acquiring it from your home — and then pass themselves off as you in order to take advantage of the services.
Of course, to do this successfully, they either have to be elderly themselves, or able to effectively disguise themselves as such.
It’s much more common for people in the medical profession itself to perpetrate Medicare fraud. All they do is charge you for services they don’t actually render, or for medical supplies you never receive. In other words, they’re skimming a little off the top here and there.
Sometimes, the fraud is perpetrated accidentally, or because someone isn’t following good medical practices… essentially, through sloppiness or incompetence. Mostly, though, it’s quite purposeful.
What You Should Do
While the government does what it can to fight Medicare fraud, there are tens of thousands of doctors out there along with unguessable numbers of ID thieves — and the Feds can only do so much. So by and large, it’s up to you to catch the abusers.
Keep your receipts and copies of your medical records for all services you receive under Medicare, and make sure that everything is dated. Then regularly compare this info with your processed Medicare claims to make sure the latter aren’t inflated.
To review those claims, look at your Medicare Summary Notice or go to the Medicare website or you can also call 1-800-633-4227.
Dealing With the Fraud
If you suspect a doctor has cheated Medicare in your name, call their office and ask them about the charges. They may be the result of a simple billing error, or you may just misunderstand what they’ve charged you for. If you still suspect fraud, contact Medicare at the above number and report it.
You’ve got less recourse if an ID thief stole your personal info and impersonated you, but report them to Medicare anyway and dispute the charges. Make sure your report the Medicare fraud to your local and state authorities as well.