HEALTHCARE FRAUD: Predatory Senior Medicare Scams

By Staff Reporters



As you likely know, the US spends much on healthcare ($4.3 trillion in 2021, to be exact). But did you also know that healthcare fraud makes up a not-so-small piece of that pie?

The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association (NHCAA), a national organization that works to prevent health insurance fraud, conservatively estimates that 3% of the US’s total annual healthcare spend—a hearty $129 billion—is lost to healthcare fraud. Some government agencies estimate that percentage to be as high as 10% (that’s $430 billion), according to the NHCAA.

Overall, Medicare fraud costs the US about $60 billion each year, Nicole Liebau, national resource center director for Senior Medicare Patrol, a government-funded organization designed to help prevent Medicare fraud, told Healthcare Brew, though she added that “the exact figure is impossible to measure.”


While Medicare fraud isn’t new, the US saw a rise in one particular tactic during the pandemic: a durable medical equipment (DME) scheme.

How the schemes work.

In a DME scheme, scammers target Medicare patients—often after a procedure or an injury—and cold-call them to offer free equipment, said Jennifer Stewart, senior associate general counsel and senior director of fraud prevention and investigation at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The scammers offer consumers items like lidocaine, wheelchairs, walkers, or braces.

The scammers have roped in doctors—who are often unaware they’re working with scammers instead of legitimate medical companies—to sign off on prescriptions that are then used to bill Medicare for the equipment, Stewart said. Sometimes patients actually receive the products, and sometimes they don’t.

“It’s really dangerous because [a prescription like lidocaine] could have reactions with other medications. The durable medical equipment isn’t sized for them, and certainly the doctor who treated their injury didn’t prescribe it […] There is a lot of patient harm involved,” Stewart said. Keep reading here.



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