Medicare fraud and abuse have become a costly problem in the U.S. With more than 4.5 million Medicare claims processed per day, it is easy for fraudsters to hide their actions in the system, costing more than $80 billion dollars each year and taking away money from the system. Though it can certainly occur anywhere, some hotspots for Medicare fraud are Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, and southern Texas.
Fraud cases have an adverse effect on individuals. “If insurance companies pay out of fraudulent claims, then they experience a loss,” a Health and Benefits Manager at Hollis & Burns, Inc. said, at the request of remaining anonymous. “That in turn impacts the consumer because the insurer will increase their rates to make up for the fraudulent claim.”
Types of Medicare Fraud
Medicare fraud is simply any instance of illegitimately collecting money from the Medicare program. It can take the form of:
• Phantom (or ghost) billing – when the care provider bills Medicare for procedures that were not performed or for equipment that was not needed
• Patient billing – when the patient gives his or her Medicare number to be billed for services not rendered or that they didn’t need (the patient is also at fault here)
• Upcoding and unbundling – inflating bills by using a false code that indicates the patient needed expensive treatments that they didn’t really need
Other types of medical billing fraud and abuse include:
• Cloning – copying information from another patient’s file to appear as if a more thorough examination was done
• Inflated hospital bills – when huge overcharges occur for medical procedures or equipment
• Repeat billing – billing twice for the same procedure, supplies, or medicine
• Length of stay – when patients are charged for extra days in the hospital or other facility
• Time in OR – when the hospital charges based on the average time needed to perform an operation, not the actual time
• Keystroke mistake – when a care provider enters incorrect codes, resulting in overcharges
Stopping Medicare Fraud
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are now using predictive modeling technology (similar to what credit card companies use to prevent suspicious activity) to try to prevent the fraudulent claims before they are paid. Voice recognition technology has even been used to make sure at-home care providers are actually present to provide services. But even with these technologies in place, everyone must be vigilant to prevent this rampant problem from continuing.
CMS has even expanded a temporary moratorium stopping new provider enrollment in areas where there is a high risk of fraud and abuse. This moratorium affects newly enrolling non-emergency ambulance providers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas, as well as newly enrolling home health agencies in Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas, according to The Bureau of National Affairs, and may be affecting some innocent providers. Some providers may now be allowed to enroll using waivers, but the process and site visit can take some time.
CMS plans to have all social security numbers removed from Medicare cards by 2019 to help combat any fraudulent action. What else can you do? Medicare.gov recommends never giving out your Medicare number to receive a free offer or gift, and to always check your Medicare statement for errors. The Health and Benefits Manager at Hollis & Burns, Inc. agrees. She says, “Keep your information on lockdown. Limit what information you share.”
Medicare.gov also lists some very helpful Dos and Don’ts for preventing Medicare fraud.
Call the hotline 1-800-MEDICARE to report any instances of fraud; you may even be eligible for a reward. To learn more about Medicare fraud cases, visit the Medicare Fraud Strike Force.
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