Medicare and Me: Scam news you can use

Leah Sugar Kari, certified medical representative (CMR)

Yet another scam has wormed its way into the minds of Medicare beneficiaries, and it’s an important one.

The scammer calls you and states that if you do not sign up and pay for genetic testing, that you will not receive your Medicare benefits. This particular scam was told to me by one of my clients, and I advised my client to report this fraud immediately by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227.) TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

Diving deeper, I consulted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s website (oig.hhs.gov/fraud/consumer-alert) and learned more about different versions of the scam that is taking place by phone, in person at health fairs and booths at public gatherings, and scammers going door to door. Quoting the Office of Inspector General’s recent article on this fraudulent activity, “Scammers are offering Medicare beneficiaries ‘free’ screenings or cheek swabs for genetic testing to obtain their Medicare information for identity theft or fraudulent billing purposes.

Beneficiaries who agree to genetic testing or verify personal or Medicare information may receive a cheek swab, an in-person screening, or a testing kit in the mail, even if it is not ordered by a physician or medically necessary.

If Medicare denies the claim, the beneficiary could be responsible for the entire cost of the test, which could be thousands of dollars.

Remember that Medicare, Social Security, and the IRS will never call you by phone unless you have directly requested a callback for information or to discuss a particular matter.

Your Medicare benefit is an important one—guard your information carefully, and particularly in the case of door to door scammers, ask the individual to leave their business card or information at the door. Then, report the activity and the perpetrator to Medicare promptly.

Leah Sugar Kari, CMR and retired pharmaceutical representative, is a local, licensed life and health insurance broker specializing in showing Medicareeligible people their insurance options in Tucson. You can reach Leah for comments at 520-484-3807 or [email protected] (TTY users dial 711.)