COVID-19 fraud scheme targets Medicare recipients
AMITE - A scam that's been going on for months has one Medicare recipient taking notice. David Bryant contacted 2 On Your Side when he started noticing bogus charges for COVID-19 test kits on his medical statements.
"One doctor was out of Texas, one doctor was out of north Louisiana," he said.
The charges range from $92-$200 and under the "service provided" it said it was a provision of a COVID-19 test, non-prescription self-administered and self-collected use, and FDA approved. One of the charges dates back to July 2022, but his insurance was only recently billed for the kit.
"I don't know where they got my information," he said.
Bryant has been on Medicare for six years. He says he's never ordered a COVID-19 test kit and he doesn't want them. Even stranger, he's never received the kits in the mail. One of them was sent to an old address in Lafayette and came from a supply company in Orlando. The rest are unaccounted for.
Most Medicare plans stopped paying for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests last month. The program providing free kits through the United States government was suspended then too. Many of Bryant's charges came before then.
"I never paid attention to it and they just went right on through and Medicare's already paid it," he said.
Turns out, Bryant is one of many Medicare recipients experiencing this around the country. Blue Cross Blue Shield fraud investigators say it's a nationwide scam. He's filed complaints with his provider each time. Now he's telling others to check their statements.
"Check your EOB's, that's your explanation of benefits and on the back it tells you what you've had done, what they're charging you for and if you've got questions call your provider," Bryant said.
He expects the bogus charges to continue.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General posted a warning about fraud schemes similar to this one earlier this year. If you have received COVID-19 test kits you did not order, or if they appear on your statements, report it.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana offers these tips to avoid fraud and common scams:
-Be suspicious whenever ANYONE asks you for money or for your personal, financial or health information. Be especially suspicious if it's unexpected or coming from a stranger. It's OK to ignore calls, emails, text messages, visits or other unwanted outreach – particularly if someone is making you uncomfortable or pressuring you to act quickly. Take time to think about it or talk to others.
-Scammers will claim to call from Medicare or your health plan, tell you there is a problem with your coverage, and ask you to confirm your information. If you get a cold call like this, do not answer. Contact your health plan with the Customer Service number on your member ID card to ask if you need to do anything.
-Scammers may claim to be from your healthcare provider's office or pharmacy and ask you for health information. Verify any outreach before giving your insurance coverage, payment information or other details. Be very wary if the person is asking about something you've never discussed with your provider or pharmacist.
-Do not accept offers to have pills, creams, foot baths, braces or other health supplies sent to you without talking to your healthcare provider. If these items show up at your home and you didn’t order them, don’t use them. This is also true if you get COVID-19 tests mailed to you that you didn’t order.
-If someone you’ve only met online asks you for money or personal information, it’s a red flag.
-Scammers often try pretending to be someone you know, like a grandchild or other relative. They'll use tactics such as being stranded in another country or under arrest, then ask you to help them right away. If you get an out-of-the-blue request for money or your financial information, check it out before you respond. Ask questions the real person could answer to make sure it's really them.
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