Medicare scams targeting seniors are on the rise

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FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2018, file photo, the U.S. Medicare Handbook is photographed, in Washington. Medicare could save $1.57 for every dollar spent delivering free meals to frail seniors in the first week after they come home following a hospitalization, says a new study that comes as lawmakers express interest in practical services that can improve patients’ well-being. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Seniors are less likely to fall for scams overall, according to the BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report. But here is one scam that’s aimed right at seniors: free medical equipment. And 200 consumers have reported this scam to BBB since May.

Marjorie Stephens says you get a call from “Medicare” or “The maker of Durable medical equipment saying you qualify for a back brace or a knee brace – totally paid for by Medicare. The will repeatedly call until you relent and allow them to submit an order to your doctor for the equipment. Or you may say no, but the company ships the brace anyway. Other times the equipment just shows up on your doorstep and Medicare receives the bill. Often consumers have a difficult time returning the unnecessary equipment.

Other Examples of DME Fraud?

  • Suppliers who want you to use their doctors (who then prescribe unnecessary medical equipment)
  • Doctors or suppliers who charge Medicare for items you never received
  • Companies that bill for duplicate orders
  • Older adults who allow their Medicare number to be used in exchange for money or other things

So, if you receive an unnecessary piece of equipment but don’t report it, you may be stuck later. When the time comes that you actually need such a device, Medicare may not pay the bill for it, saying they already covered it years earlier.

How to Protect Yourself and Medicare from DME Fraud

  • Refuse and report anyone offering “free” equipment, supplies, or services in exchange for your Medicare number.
  • Know that Medicare medical suppliers are not allowed to make unsolicited telephone calls or send e-mails to sell you equipment unless you’ve done business with them in the last 15 months.
  • Never sign a blank form from your health care provider or equipment supplier.
  • Always read your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to look for any charges for equipment you do not need or did not receive.
  • Protect your Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security cards; keep them in a safe place (not your wallet), and only get them out when you are going to see a health care provider.
  • Call your doctor and tell him or her about the attempted scam
  • Call the Medicare fraud hotline: 800-633-4227 (800-MEDICARE)
  • File a complaint at org/complaint

Stephens tells you what to watch for, how to protect yourself, and how to report it to help the next potential victim here.

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