Medical Equipment Scams

There have been so many fraudulent claims to Medicare for durable medical equipment (DME) — wheelchairs, walkers, braces and other devices prescribed by doctors to help patients deal with an injury or chronic illness at home that have been in excess of $6 BILLION, yes Billion, a YEAR! Yikes. This is yet another way older Americans are being exploited.

You get a phone call for “free” medical equipment – Medicare will pay for it.  You may even see an advertisement or be approached at a health fair.  The call may sound real as someone claiming to be from Medicare calls to say you’re eligible for a free knee or back brace, and they need your Medicare or Social Security number to process the benefit. You may or may not get a brace, but the crooks get what they need to steal your identity.

Using telemarketing and hard-sell tactics, unscrupulous equipment suppliers lure you into ordering their wares, get your health care information, obtain bogus prescriptions (by paying kickbacks and bribes to doctors or by forging their signatures) and file false claims. They stick Medicare with the bill for costly devices that are not medically necessary, not properly prescribed or not delivered to patients at all.

Don’t let your health concerns make you an unwitting accomplice to fraud. Take these steps to avoid medical equipment scams.

  • Hang up on unsolicited calls offering you a medical device that will be billed to Medicare.
  • Carefully review MSNs and EOBs. Call Medicare (800-633-4227) or your insurance company if you see claims for supplies or services you don’t recognize.
  • Be aware that if you accept an offer of medical equipment, you could be responsible for up to 20 percent of the Medicare-approved cost of the item.

And by all means,

  • Don’t give your Medicare or insurance number to strangers. Share it only with trusted health care providers.
  • Don’t order durable medical equipment over the phone unless advised to do so by your physician.
  • Don’t accept delivery of medical equipment unless it was ordered by your doctor.
  • Don’t be swayed by scare tactics, such as claims by an equipment provider that you should get a device now because Medicare is running out of money. Charging Medicare for equipment for future use, before your doctor certifies it as medically necessary, is illegal.
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Kay Sowa

About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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