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Medicare Fraud Prevention Week aims to protect Michigan seniors

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In Michigan, 22% of people are enrolled in Medicare for their health coverage, and scams are on the rise.
Nationally, Medicare loses about $60 billion a year to a combination of fraud, errors and abuse. To combat these issues, this is Medicare Fraud Prevention Week. Senior organizations in Michigan and across the country are using media and mailers to raise awareness.
Shari Smith, manager of the Michigan Medicare Assistance Program at AgeWays, formerly an Area Agency on Aging, said if anyone calls and says they’re from Medicare, it’s a scam – because Medicare doesn’t call people.
“They’ll call and they’ll say, ‘I’m from Medicare and we’re calling to confirm your number. Is it 1-2-3-4-5?’ for example,” she said. “And you’re taken by surprise and you go, ‘Oh no, it’s 6-7-8-9-10.’ And you’ve just given them your Medicare number.”
Smith said if someone calls saying they are from Medicare, hang up immediately. Last year, 23 home health-care operators in Michigan were charged with fraud for billing Medicare more than $61 million for services they didn’t provide.
Medicare fraud investigators have said scammers usually misrepresent a diagnosis, an identity, the service provided, or other facts to justify asking for information or payment. It isn’t just callers: Health-care providers may also be prescribing or providing excessive or unnecessary tests and services.
Smith shared another important tip to help seniors fight back.
“To check their Explanation of Benefits or Medicare summary notices every month,” she said. “There will sometimes be charges on there for goods or services that they didn’t receive – and that’s where the money’s really piling up.”
Health-care providers are encouraged to help by talking to their older patients about health-related scams, which range from offering durable medical equipment to genetic testing, to bogus “microchipped” Medicare cards, claiming Medicare will pay for them.
In Michigan, a person found guilty of Medicare fraud should expect to spend up to 10 years in prison per count.

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