A specific kind of threat to seniors that you may be susceptible to could really be categorized as a type of ‘elder abuse.’ It often involves seeking out less savvy or even impaired individuals and using them to cheat the Medicare system. The government calls this kind of activity ‘Medicare fraud’ and is cracking down on the many kinds of crimes that are practiced by those hoping to benefit financially from deceiving the elderly. In fact, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that in 2011, Medicare fraud was between $ 17 to 57 billion (or three to 10 percent of all health care billings).
How Medicare Fraud Happens
Medicare fraud can happen in many different ways. Dishonest individuals can call seniors on the telephone, meet up with them at public events that are staged as part of a fraud strategy, or even visit them at their homes. Criminals are often hoping to get certain kinds of identifying information about those who are eligible for Medicare. In many cases, they are looking for signatures that can be used to bill the government program for services that may be provided differently than documentation shows, or may not even be provided at all.
What to Do About Medicare Fraud
One of the most basic ways to combat Medicare fraud is to know how Medicare works. Legitimate Medicare representatives will not ‘cold call’ or visit you out of the blue. You should also protect your personal information as much as possible and look over any ‘special offers’ closely before signing anything. Because your Medicare card has your social security number on it, be very careful with whom you share the card with. In general, awareness is key to making sure that you are not taken advantage of by criminals seeking to defraud you, the Medicare program or collecting dishonest revenues at taxpayers' expense.
Federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and groups like the Better Business Bureau offer additional tips for protecting seniors against Medicare fraud, such as the following:
• avoid signing ‘blanket’ agreements or broad care or service authorizations
• understand what your provider has billed for and when
• keep records of health care visits, services and service locations
* document provided durable medical equipment
Spreading the word about Medicare fraud scams is ultimately important as consumers and government get together to fight back against opportunistic Medicare cheaters. To learn more and to join the fight to stop fraud, go to http://www.medicare.gov/help-and-resources/report-fraud-and-abuse/fraud-and-abuse.html.