BBB® Scam Alert: Beware of the Medicare back brace scam
Published in All About Seniors Winter/Spring 2021 Upstate Edition
By: Vee Daniel, CEO/President Better Business Bureau of the Upstate
The Better Business Bureau is hearing from consumers who have been targeted by scammers for “free” back braces.
How the Scam Works
You get a call saying you qualify for a back brace or a knee brace – totally paid for by Medicare. The scammer may pretend to be from Medicare, or they may claim to be the maker of durable medical equipment (DME). They say you qualify for the equipment for free, and they repeatedly call until you relent and allow them to submit an order to your doctor for the equipment. Or you may say no, but the company ships the brace anyway. Other times the equipment just shows up on your doorstep and Medicare receives the bill. Often consumers have a difficult time returning the unnecessary equipment.
By law, no one is allowed to make unsolicited calls to consumers about durable medical equipment. If they do, it’s Medicare fraud. And taxpayers foot the bill for all the unwanted products. If you get such a call, just hang up.
Other Examples of DME Fraud?
- Suppliers who want you to use their doctors (who then prescribe unnecessary medical equipment)
- Doctors or suppliers who charge Medicare for items you never received
- Companies that bill for duplicate orders
- Older adults who allow their Medicare number to be used in exchange for money or other things
Medicare fraud has cost the American public more than $60 billion, and durable medical equipment fraud is a significant contributor to that total. In April 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 24 people across the country for DME fraud involving more than $1.2 billion in losses.
And here’s one more reason to care about durable medical equipment fraud: if you receive an unnecessary piece of equipment but don’t report it, you may be stuck later. When the time comes that you actually need such a device, Medicare may not pay the bill for it, saying they already covered it years earlier.
Vee Daniel is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Upstate, a non-profit organization serving the 10 counties in the Upstate region of South Carolina. Her experience includes 19 years of association management. 864-331-3315; www.upstatesc.bbb.org.