Arm Yourself to Fight Medicare Crime
By Michelle Kessler
On Tuesday, Oct. 3, residents of Barre have the opportunity to learn how to protect themselves from one of the biggest criminal enterprises in the country. It’s one that often falls beneath people’s radar: Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse.
Medicare is a public health insurance program designed for people age 65 and older and others with some disabilities. The program covers hospitalization and other medical costs at free or reduced rates. It’s a critical part of our country’s social support infrastructure that provides peace of mind and health care to millions of Americans. Because the program is so large and important, however, it has become the target of an astonishing level of exploitation and fraudulent activity.
Medicare scammers work in a number of ways, but usually it involves tricking beneficiaries into providing personal health-care details like Medicare or Social Security numbers. They use this information to bill the program for unnecessary equipment and services.
Who hasn’t fielded a bewildering conversation with a caller who insists there’s a problem with health-care information or medical billing? Whether they’re using the phone or contacting people online, scammers are highly skilled, aggressive, and seem to be everywhere. They rely on:
The indifference of beneficiaries, as lost money rarely comes out of their own pockets.
Ignorance of criminal activity and little oversight of personal health care activity.
The sheer size of the program - $888 billion in 2021.
Estimates put annual losses to Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse at $65 billion. It’s everyone’s duty to protect this critical benefit by learning to recognize the signs of Medicare crime and stop the scams before they happen.
Prevent, Detect, Report is a short, entertaining, and free introduction to the basics of protecting your Medicare information. It is hosted by community organizations and employers all over the state, and presented by the staff of Community of Vermont Elders, a Montpelier nonprofit that administers Vermont’s chapter of Senior Medicare Patrol. Vermont SMP is a federally funded program designed to educate older Vermonters, their families, and caregivers about Medicare crime, and help people whose personal health-care information has been compromised.
From learning how to read monthly health-care statements to the importance of never giving out your Medicare number unsolicited, Prevent, Detect, Report is critical information for everyone who’s getting older.
For information about the Oct. 3 presentation, contact the Barre Housing Authority at 802-461-2546.
Michelle Kessler is director of Vermont Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP). Learn more at vtsmp.org.