Medicare Fraud Spotlight
Beware of Common Medicare Scams
Scams in Iowa are in full force, and we are working diligently at the SHIIP/SMP office to educate Medicare beneficiaries about suspected Medicare fraud, and to ensure it is reported. “Have you received your new Medicare card?” – is unfortunately a very common scam that impacts many Medicare beneficiaries in our state. Let’s talk about common Medicare scams that you should be on the lookout for.
- New Medicare Cards
In 2018 the federal government replaced all Medicare cards to provide people with a unique Medicare number and remove Social Security numbers from their Medicare card. Folks who remember that Medicare did this once, may be inclined to believe that the government could possibly replace your Medicare cards again. Don’t be fooled- this is a scam!
Unless it is lost or damaged, the Medicare card and number that you now have (or get at enrollment) is the card and number that you keep as long as you have Medicare. Be aware. Medicare will never call you to ask for your Medicare number. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from Medicare, hang up!
- COVID-19 Tests
The Biden-Harris free at-home COVID test program was suspended September 7, 2022, due to a lack of funding from Congress. This means that we must beware of “free” COVID test offers.
In Iowa, scammers have been targeting Medicare beneficiaries by running ads on local news channels, on social media (Facebook, etc.), and even calling beneficiaries on home phones, or on their cell phones. These are all strategies for the scammers to acquire your personal information—like your Medicare number—which can be used or sold to other scammers. Scammers use your Medicare number to bill fraudulent charges to Medicare under your name and number, this is Medical Identity Theft. Never give your Medicare number to strangers.
To acquire a COVID-19 test, contact your doctor or visit your local pharmacy.
- Durable Medical Equipment – Back Braces, Knee Braces, and Support/Compression Sleeves
Another prevalent Medicare scam in Iowa involves Durable Medical Equipment- which are things like back braces, knee braces, etc. Usually, a scammer will call a beneficiary, claiming to be from Medicare, and asking for health information. This is an attempt to get you to answer “yes” to one of their “health” questions. Beneficiaries have reported that scammers will pressure them to say that they experience back aches, knee pain, or elbow pain, all so that they can mail to the person over-priced and medically unnecessary medical equipment and supplies.
Once the scammer acquires your Medicare number, the equipment is charged to your Medicare number. This can impact you in the future, if you later need any medical equipment or supplies.
If you need medical equipment or supplies, talk to your doctor- not a stranger on the phone.
What Can You Do?
- Protect: If someone calls you asking you for health information, hang up, and never say “yes.” Even on occasions where they ask for you by name, do not respond, and simply ask who is calling. If they claim to be Medicare, hang up. Medicare will never call you unless you have requested a call, and they will never ask you for your Medicare number, or other personal identifying information—Medicare already has it!
- Detect: Review your Medicare Summary Notices or Explanation of Benefits statements regularly to ensure that your charges match the services or supplies that you have received through your doctor’s office or your pharmacy.
- Report: Report any suspicious charges or calls to your local SHIIP/SMP office as soon as possible. And, don’t forget to share these tips with your friends and family!