Seniors Blow the Whistle on Medicare Fraud

By Bob LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In the battle against Medicare fraud, South Florida seniors have blown the whistle — more than 54,000 times.

That’s how many calls South Florida’s Medicare recipients placed to a special hotline for reporting suspicious bills in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties from 2007 through September.

A federal report Tuesday spelled out the results of the South Florida calls: $58.6 million in overpayments recovered, $10.7 million in questionable bills not paid, $3 million seized from fraudulent firms, 103 companies booted from Medicare, 106 companies flagged for extra scrutiny, 835 fraud investigations started, and 30 cases referred for prosecution.

The government started the hotline to give the area’s 900,000 seniors a way to combat the more than $1 billion of Medicare fraud estimated to occur in South Florida every year.

Hattie Denaro did her part. The Boynton Beach retiree, 92, drove herself to a federal office to turn over copies of several suspicious bills, including one for almost $2,900 for physical therapy at a Miami center she never visited or heard of.

“Everyone should report it. If they did, maybe we’d have fewer of these bad guys,” Denaro said.

Boca Raton recipient Paula Ritter, 84, called the hotline several times to turn in a Miami medical office that billed more than $5,000 for electro-stimulation treatments she never received.

Neither woman heard back from Medicare about her complaint, but that often means officials are investigating, said Cecilia Franco, director of Medicare’s field office in Miami.

“People should know we look into every call,” Franco said.

To report suspected fraud or abuse, contact the South Florida hotline at (866) 417-2078 or medicare.gov. Or contact the statewide Senior Medicare Patrol at (866) 357-6677 or the national Medicare fraud hotline at (800) 447-8477.

By the numbers

54,513 calls to the fraud hotline

$58.6 million in overpayments recovered

$10.7 million in questionable bills not paid

103 companies booted from Medicare

SOURCE: US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Justice

Tags: ,


%d bloggers like this: