Here come the scammers: Healthcare fraud on the rise

Seniors are frequently the target of scam artists—from unscrupulous home repair contractors to questionable charitable groups. And now healthcare reform has triggered a more aggressive and virulent strain of scamming that involves preying on the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the many changes associated with Medicare, private insurance, and regulatory mandates.

Many of these scams involve inciting fear among consumers unfamiliar with the complexities of reform. Sure, we’ve all heard that American citizens must be insured, but people might not understand that they have until 2014 to choose a provider. CNN today reports scammers pressuring unsuspecting folks to sign up for bogus insurance plans. And, while seniors may know they’re entitled to a $250 rebate to cover the “doughnut hole” of Medicare Part D drug coverage, they may not know to refrain from providing social security and Medicare beneficiary information over the phone to slick yet intimidating crooks insisting they need this information to process their rebates.

Long-term care providers should be working to educate their residents (and their families and loved ones) about identity theft and Medicare fraud threats aimed at this most vulnerable population. They should offer some form of education (seminars or even simple informational handouts, for example) to cover not only the basics of healthcare reform and how it will affect them, but the sophisticated tactics scammers employ to take advantage of seniors. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers tips to avoid becoming a victim of a scam artist.

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