National Consumer Protection Week – How can you protect yourself from Medicare fraud?

This week, March 3-9, is National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), as proclaimed by President Obama in 2009.  Consumer education helps keep seniors and all Americans informed while providing them with resources to explain their rights and protections.  NCPW is the perfect time to talk about how you can protect yourself from Medicare fraud.  We also encourage you to read our newsletter article about the Affordable Care Act. 

Medicare fraud costs the United States an estimated $60 billion each year. This loss hurts everyone because it raises the cost of health care coverage across the board. The Obama administration has made fighting Medicare fraud a top priority. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes significant funding for FBI agents and prosecutors to find and punish these criminals.

While the government works to find and prosecute Medicare criminals, there are things seniors can do to prevent Medicare Fraud.  Here is what you can do to protect yourself or a loved one from Medicare fraud — and what to do if you think you might be a victim.

Protect your Medicare card as carefully as you would a credit card or Social Security card. Never give your number over the phone to a stranger (i.e. – someone who claims to be conducting a health care survey for the government).  Never allow a friend or relative to use your card. If your Medicare card has been lost or stolen, or you can no longer use it because it is too faded or damaged, you can replace it by calling the National Social Security Hotline at 800-772-1213. You can also apply for a new card online or go to your local Social Security office.

Be wary when accepting free offers for medical equipment, supplies, or services that you don’t need or already receive. There are many reputable and reliable home medical equipment suppliers, but unfortunately there are also those that charge for equipment they never deliver or sell seniors expensive equipment they don’t really need. They sometimes imply or promise that Medicare will pay for the equipment when that may not be true, and the senior is stuck with expensive bills. Some examples of tactics the salespeople use are staying in your home for a lengthy period of time, preventing you from asking others’ advice, and setting up equipment that is hard to move.

Check any insurance plan you are considering on the Medicare Plan Finder at https://medicare.gov/find-a-plan. If you cannot find the plan, it may not be legitimate. 

Review your credit reports periodically for unpaid medical bills that may be a result of fraud. In addition, it is a good idea to keep a journal of doctor visits and other medical services you receive to compare with any unexplained charges.
    
Be sure to review your statements carefully. If you have traditional Medicare, you receive statements quarterly. Review them for doctor visits that never happened, unfamiliar medical provider names, and supplies and equipment you never received.
     

– Report unfamiliar or unusual activity. If you find something unusual, call your doctor or medical provider first. It may be a simple error. If not, report it immediately to the inspector general at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477), or via e-mail at HHSTips@hhs.gov. Last year, calls to our 800 number triggered 30,000 investigations. 

For more information on preventing and reporting Medicare fraud, go to stopmedicarefraud.gov. Or check the fraud section of the “Medicare and You” handbook recently sent to all Medicare recipients.

We here at the Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firms of Evan H. Farr, P.C. believe that senior consumers should have access to all of the information and consumer protections they need to make important decisions.  One of the most important decisions you can make it to plan for your future and for your family. Call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a free consultation. 

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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