Monday, January 19, 2009
Help Me Howard: Medicare Fraud
Medicare is designed to give seniors health insurance as they age, but criminals also use it to bilk taxpayers out of money. One South Florida woman is fed up with fraudulent charges being billed under her good name, so she's fighting back by turning to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When most people retire they take it easy. Nancy and Carlton decided to take off in a new direction. They are now models.
Nancy: "I've done some department store ads and lifestyle, a lot of medical, HMO, Social Security video, just all kinds of things."
The medical work pays. This medical stuff is a pain.
Nancy: "Page after page after page."
Page after page of treatments in Nancy's name that Medicare has paid for.
Nancy: "Non-water proof paste, a humidifier, a backup non-evasive something."
A seat lift, electrical stimulation, the list goes on, and the money paid by Medicare to companies in South Florida cities from Hollywood to Miami to North Miami Beach piles up.
Nancy: "So far, Medicare has paid $18,509 to these various companies for things I have never had done."
That's right, Nancy has never had these treatments or even heard of these so-called medical companies that billed Medicare in her name.
Nancy: "So I am getting copies of things that Medicare has reviewed and paid on some of them for things that I have never had done for me."
People are using Nancy's name, Social Security number and Medicare number. She says she has complained since 2007.
Nancy: "The response was less than satisfactory."
She asked Medicare to flag her account, so she could be notified before the government got ripped off again.
Nancy: "I can't do that."
Meaning the taxpayers are getting ripped off, and Nancy's name is being used by crooks to line their pockets. Nancy worries it's going to get worse.
Nancy: "And all of a sudden I'm going to have full blown identity theft, and that's really a big concern of mine, and I want to break this cycle."
Howard Finkelstein: "Unfortunately, Nancy is at the mercy of the federal government. It's their obligation to investigate. If Medicare won't fix the problem, then Nancy did the next best thing by contacting us."
We called the companies that were paid by Medicare in Nancy's name, the numbers don't exist. We went by the addresses they listed, the companies weren't there. The center for Medicare services told us they have taken action on Nancy's complaints, but the case is still open. When we asked why was it taking so long, they told us generally it should not take two years. Bottom line, taxpayers are still getting ripped off.
Howard Finkelstein: "While you might not know it from this case, the federal government actually encourages people to report Medicare fraud. If it's taken this long in Nancy's case, it's a sign Medicare needs more attention in detecting fraud, and that takes the attention of your congressperson and US senators, so complain to them."
Medicare has told Nancy they hope to finish her case by March. In the meantime, it's growing season in her backyard. The couple is hoping to grow model fruit and vegetables when they aren't modeling themselves.
Carlton: "People say you can't grow apples in Florida. We got this tree from a nursery in Gainesville and they say it will grow apples, and it gives us about 20 apples a year."
Patrick Fraser: "Medicare fraud is a monstrous problem in South Florida. Keep track of your benefit forms. Medicare fraud hurts us all, it's our money."
Found fraud and sick of paying for it? Stop taxing yourself. Contact us, and let us find a model solution.
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