Scammers, solicitation and slippery slopes

 - 
01/25/2011

While CMS continues in its attempts to curb Medicare fraud and abuse (and rightly so), it would be nice if it were easier to separate the scams from legitimate attempts at business.

This story on news-press.com, details phone calls to various people asking if they have diabetes, and then attempting to get the callees' Medicare information.

The next order of business was to ask Mangano if she had " a red, white and blue Medicare card."

When Mangano said she did, the woman told her she would need to get it to read off some information.

That's when the Fort Myers woman was certain the call didn't come from Liberty or any legitimate medical supplier.

"She was trying to get my Social Security number," Mangano surmised. "I told her, 'You're not getting any information off my card,'" and hung up the phone.

Meanwhile, providers are being told they may not be able to "solicit" Medicare beneficiaries without written permission. That could mean that calling beneficiaries to arrange for delivery or sending out mailings is a big no no in the eyes of CMS.

I don't use Liberty, nor does anyone in my home have diabetes, and I got the same call.

When the woman asked me if someone in the home was a diabetic, I asked, "Why do you want to know?"

She said she could get us diabetes supplies.

Ah, yes. The ever-popular 'if you have Medicare, you can get your diabetes/urological supplies/power wheelchairs for free,' speech, which admittedly, I see on late night TV commercials. Doesn't mean it's a scam, but I know many providers dislike those ads. The problem arises when scammers count on uninformed consumers to mistake the scam for something else.

When I said I was on the Do Not Call list, she told me someone had made an online request for information from her company.

I know this is a lie. And told her to not call again.

All of the providers I speak with, along with assorted attorneys and legislative types all agree that protecting beneficiaries from predatory calls is an admirable goal.

It's just that some of CMS's policies create some damn slippery slopes for legitimate providers.

Theresa Flaherty

Tags: