Health care fraud is a booming business across the U.S., ranging from $80 billion to $160 billion in losses each year. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that consumers themselves lose more than $10 billion annually to health care fraud.
What can we do about it as individuals? Join Nebraska’s Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). As part of a nationwide effort to fight health care fraud and combat waste, Nebraska’s SMP relies on a dedicated corps of volunteer educators.
Volunteers help people in their communities identify and report possible Medicare or Medicaid fraud, error or waste and give consumers tips on how they can protect themselves from being victimized.
For every dollar spent on health care fraud and abuse investigations in the last three years, $7.90 was recovered. Nationally, $4.2 billion was recovered in 2012 alone.
“This criminal activity hurts beneficiaries because Medicare and Medicaid money is wasted that could be used to increase and improve health care services,” according to SMP Director Madhavi Bhadbhade.
“It affects everyone by throwing away billions of taxpayer dollars. Our volunteers empower consumers to recognize the signs and report potential cases of fraud for further investigation and action by the proper authorities.”
Bhadbhade said the most common complaints from consumers involve scammers calling them to issue a new Medicare card and seeking their bank account number. The new health care law makes this scam a little more credible, she said.
Suspected fraud by Home Health agencies is also on the rise as is fraud related to Durable Medical Equipment such as diabetic supplies.
In the past year, more than 100 SMP volunteers and staff educated over 21,000 older Nebraskans about how to avoid becoming victims of health care fraud.
They visit senior centers, community health clinics, retirement communities, health fairs and other locations to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to guard their personal information, be alert to suspicious sales pitches and carefully review their Medicare paperwork for accuracy.
“Volunteers connect us with the public and are critical to our success. We’re always seeking interested volunteers throughout Nebraska who want to make a real impact by joining our efforts to crack down on health care fraud,” Bhadbhade added.
To learn more about volunteering or to file a complaint of possible Medicare or Medicaid fraud, contact Nebraska SMP toll free at 1-800-942-7830.