- Faith & Family
South Florida seniors warned to beware
Medicare fraud across the U.S. has become big business. Earlier this month, a crack down to protect citizens from this type of crime played out here in South Florida. Federal agents arrested 42 suspects on Medicare fraud charges, including the owners of Biscayne Milieu Health Center, a Fort Lauderdale psychiatrist who referred patients to the Miami Gardens clinic, patient recruiters and assisted living facilities landlords. Other defendants were operators of home healthcare agencies, HIV-therapy clinics and medical equipment businesses. Combined, the offenders are accused of submitting $160 million in false claims to Medicare for services that were either unprovided or unneeded by patients. In turn, Medicare paid out more than $90 million.
“We are the ones that educate people on how to recognize and report fraud,” said Sandra Colo’n, outreach coordinator for the South Florida Senior Medicare Patrol (SFSMP). “We teach seniors the importance of their Medicare cards and how to protect their information. We also teach them how to protect their personal information. It is really important that they know what their benefits are so that they know when they are being scammed.”
Colo’n has been working with SFSMP to help seniors combat Medicare fraud since 2009.
“People have to watch out for scammers coming door-to-door — that is not supposed to happen,” she said. “We always advise people not to carry their Medicare card with them on a daily basis and then to only carry a copy of the original card. We also encourage them to keep journals of their doctors’ visits so that they can track anything suspicious. The seniors are our eyes and ears out there.
Viola Walker, 72, a former victim of Medicare fraud, said she wishes she had known about the services the SFSMP provides.
“Unfortunately I was one of the unlucky ones and I was scammed,” she said. “A guy called me on the phone and lied to me. I thought he was with Medicare but it was a trick. So far it has been very hard trying to get things back in order for me.”
Earlier this summer, Gregory Campbell, 28, the son of Democratic State Representative Daphne Campbell, 54, was arrested in a $299,000 Medicaid scheme in which he is accused of fraudulently billing the agency for clients for whom he did not provide service. Similar scenarios continue to be played out across the country. The Obama administration recently announced charges against 91 people in eight cities who have been accused of cheating the Medicare system out of nearly $300 million and victimizing elderly and disabled people who rely on the federal insurance program.
By Randy Grice