In a recent news release, the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services warns people with diabetes that they could possibly be the target of fraud. There have been reports of someone calling people with diabetes and pretending to be from Medicare, the government, or a diabetes association. The caller offers “free” diabetes supplies like blood glucose meters as well as other supplies like lift seats, braces, etc. and takes the patient’s Medicare and other personal information.
The Inspector General encourages diabetes educators to discuss this with our patients and let them know that it is a scam.
The OIG website lists four steps to take if you think you have been scammed:
- Protect Your Medicare and Other Personal Information: Be suspicious of anyone who offers free items or services and then asks for your Medicare or financial information. These calls are not coming from Medicare, diabetes associations, or other similar organizations. While the caller says the items are "free," the items are still billed to Medicare. Once your Medicare information is in the hands of a dishonest person or supplier, you are susceptible to further scams. Alert others about this scheme, and remind them not to provide strangers Medicare numbers or other personal information.
- Report the Call to Law Enforcement: Report the call to the OIG Hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or online at www.OIG.HHS.gov/fraud/hotline. As part of your report, provide the name of the company that called you, the company's telephone number and address, and a summary of your conversation with the caller.
- Check Your Medicare Summary Notice and Medicare Bills: Check your Medicare Summary Notice and other medical information to see if you were charged for items you did not order or did not receive. Also, check for items that were billed multiple times, such as glucose meters, diabetes test strips and lancets, and other supplies. Report any irregular activity to your health care provider and the OIG Hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS or online at www.OIG.HHS.gov/fraud/hotline.
- Do Not Accept Items That You Did Not Order: You are under no obligation to accept items that you did not order. Instead, you should refuse the delivery and/or return to the sender. Keep a record of the sender's name and the date you returned the item(s) to help OIG catch any future illegal billing.
In my years of working with patients with diabetes, I was actually a little surprised to read that people with diabetes were described as a ‘new target.’ Many patients with diabetes have approached me with odd situations in regards to companies sending them “free” things that they may not necessarily need or order so the company can bill Medicare.
As an educator, I try to explain to my patients what is considered appropriate and what situations sound a little ‘fishy.’ I never realized there was actually a hotline and I will now encourage my patients to call that number or call them myself with the patient by my side to report in efforts to decrease this illegal behavior.
Have you about similar situations from your patients? Did they know it was a fraud at the time of the call or realize it later? Please share your experiences...