As the cost of care rises in the United States, so does the occurrence of health care fraud across the country. In fact, some estimates place the amount of money lost to healthcare fraud in the United States in the tens of MILLIONS of dollars each year. While all health care and health insurance fraud is a problem, scams targeting Medicare are especially pervasive since one major hurdle is often removed for fraudsters. Unlike the with population at large, if an American is over 65, a potential scammer can assume that they have access to Medicare and therefore doesn’t need to do any research or steal any data to perpetrate their crime. Fortunately, there are some simple things we can all do to help avoid being victims of Medicare fraud.
- NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR MEDICARE INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE OR TO SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW
Medicare is a largely centralized system. Any legitimate Medicare provider will have access to your information already and will never ask for it over the phone. One helpful way to think about this is to treat your Medicare number like your Social Security Number. Protect it and only share it with people or agencies you trust.
- NEVER SIGN A MEDICARE OR INSURANCE FORM WITHOUT REVIEWING CAREFULLY
Because fraudsters are able to rely on the widespread use of Medicare, they often try to convince people to sign off on procedures that are either unnecessary, or that were never performed at all. This is something to be ESPECIALLY skeptical of if you are receiving care somewhere other than your regular doctor’s office. Fraudsters often take advantage of mobile medical facilities set up in malls, shopping centers, church parking lots or other public places to try to commit these false claim crimes.
- ALWAYS FEEL FREE TO CONTACT MEDICARE
Another advantage to Medicare being a centralized system is that you have a single point of contact to report suspicious behavior and investigate the legitimacy of a service offering. Medicare can be reached by either calling 1-800-MEDICARE or through www.medicare.gov. Medicare also operates their own fraud prevention website in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the HHS Office of Inspector General. The site can be found at www.stopmedicarefraud.gov and contains a host of helpful tips and reporting tools for preventing and fighting Medicare fraud.