They go door-to-door looking for seniors who may need a motorized scooter. They even offer to give them the scooter absolutely free. Those who accept the offer are then asked for their Medicare or Medicaid number. They then bill Medicare or Medicaid for a motorized wheelchair. What is the difference? A scooter can cost $1,800. A motorized wheelchair, $5,000. This practice seems to run rampant throughout much of New Jersey, particularly in apartment buildings catering to seniors.
"It's a popular Medicare/Medicaid scam that costs the government millions of dollars," according to Charles Clarkson, an attorney and Coordinator of the NJ Healthcare Advocate Volunteer Effort (NJ HAVE). "Once seniors unwittingly give out their Medicare or Medicaid number, insurance crooks are off to the races." Combating this problem through education is the goal of the NJ HAVE, under the auspices of Jewish Family & Vocational Service of Middlesex County (seewww.jfvs.org), which is part of a federally funded effort called the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program.
"Medicare and Medicaid fraud is a huge problem that the federal government hopes to tackle by teaching Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries how to avoid becoming victims of fraud, waste and abuse," said Mr. Clarkson. "Everyone has a stake in this because money lost to these practices has an impact on premiums and deductibles and could result in cutbacks to these programs."
NJ HAVE offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of Medicare fraud:
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