Every year, money is taken from the Medicare program through deceptive practices, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare fraud is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but it hurts the program as a whole, including everyone who receives Medicare benefits. This quick guide reveals how Medicare fraud takes place, why it affects you as a beneficiary, and what you can do to help prevent it.
Simply put, Medicare fraud is when false claims are knowingly made for services or procedures that were never received.
There are many types of Medicare fraud. For instance, it’s fraud when a provider bills Medicare for a medical appointment that didn’t occur. Another example of Medicare fraud is a supplier who charges Medicare for durable medical equipment that’s never been furnished to a beneficiary.
Medicare fraud is different from abuse. According to CMS, Medicare abuse occurs when doctors and health providers give medically unnecessary services or supplies, such as ordering a lab test that isn’t needed or billing Medicare for home health services when the patient isn’t homebound. This can also result in unnecessary costs to the Medicare program, but in a different way.
You may ask, “Why should I care if someone else commits Medicare fraud?” There are at least two main reasons you may want to join the battle against Medicare fraud. One is that Medicare fraud results in higher health-care costs for everyone, both beneficiaries and people without Medicare. Just as a retail store might increase prices to cover the losses of theft, Medicare costs will increase for everyone when fraud occurs.
Secondly, you or your loved one could be the next victim. Anytime you visit the emergency room, pharmacy, or doctor’s office, there’s a risk of Medicare fraud occurring. Someone may steal your Medicare card, or you might encounter a dishonest person working at a doctor’s office or pharmacy. Either way, the burden of proof might fall upon you because the Medicare card and billing information will be in your name.
Uncovering Medicare fraud is easy if you keep an eye out for suspicious activities. Some red flags to watch out for include providers that:
One way to detect and prevent Medicare fraud is to keep a record whenever you visit a doctor or health provider, including the date you received the service, the provider name, the service or equipment received, and the amount charged. Save all the statements your doctor sends and compare them against your Medicare statements. If you have Original Medicare, you can find your Medicare statements by logging into MyMedicare.gov or checking your Medicare Summary Notice, which is a notice Medicare mails out every three months.
Keep an eye out for discrepancies between your records and your Medicare statements, such as items you never received or if you don’t recognize the provider on a claim.
If you suspect that a provider has committed Medicare fraud, remember the adage “trust, but verify.” You should start by double-checking with the provider to be sure it is not a simple mistake first. Sometimes human and computer errors do occur unintentionally.
However, if so-called “errors” seem to be happening often, then it may be time to investigate further. You wouldn’t want to wrongly accuse your health-care provider, so be sure to approach suspected Medicare fraud with caution.
If you’ve done your due diligence and still believe your provider may have committed Medicare fraud, you should report the incident to Medicare.
Before contacting Medicare, you’ll need to gather all the facts about the incident so you can clearly present your case. Make sure to have the following information on hand:
To report Medicare fraud, contact Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re a TTY user, call 1-877-486-2048.
Don’t let yourself be a victim of Medicare fraud. The following tips may prevent this from happening to you:
Most importantly, follow your instincts. If a situation doesn’t seem right, investigate to find the answers. Keep in mind that Medicare fraud may be committed by a person who doesn’t fit your idea of a “criminal”; it can happen with a doctor you think you know and trust.
With this knowledge, you can help fight against Medicare fraud and prevent waste in the Medicare program.
For more information, see:
To learn about Medicare plans you may be eligible for, you can: