Medical Equipment Scams Target Senior Citizens

by Francine Huff
April 9th, 2009

You may have seen offers for free wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, or other medical equipment. But be careful about signing up for one of these offers, because it could be a scam to defraud Medicare.

The scam basically involves creating fake medical equipment companies then finding people to sign up to receive free equipment. In some cases real medical equipment suppliers are involved in the scheme. Once the person signs up for the free supplies, the fraudsters bill the patient’s insurance company and keep the money.

In some cases, doctors are bribed to sign approval forms certifying that the patient needs the equipment. In other situations, con artists have obtained patient information and billed insurers for medical equipment that was never ordered. One medical supply company in Texas even took advantage of an expedited claims process after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to get reimbursed for wheelchairs that were supposedly destroyed in the storms.

Medical equipment companies are facing new requirements to get accredited later this year. They’ll also have to pay for a surety bond that will help protect Medicare from fraudulent claims.

“Now they actually have to invest some money to go to the trouble of defrauding us…Plus, the bond providers will have an interest in vetting the suppliers themselves,” Kim Brandt director of program integrity for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the Wall Street Journal.

Here are some ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of medical equipment fraud:

  • Avoid signing blank insurance forms.
  • Avoid giving personal information to unsolicited medical supply salespeople who call you or come to your home.
  • Always review your insurance companies explanation of benefits statements.
  • Only reveal your insurance or Medicare information to people who actually provide you with medical services.
  • There are legitimate medical equipment suppliers out there. Just make sure you know who you’re doing business with, and ask your doctor to explain exactly why you need to order a particular piece of equipment.

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    One Response to “Medical Equipment Scams Target Senior Citizens”

    1. Artromick Says:

      This is not so shocking as it sounds there have lots of scams going on even in the medical industry. One has to be very careful while selecting companies and products.