A massive Medicare fraud is targeting older people through telemarketing, offering them “free” medical items like braces and pain creams in exchange for sharing Medicare numbers and other information, warns U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew.
Van Drew, D-2nd, said he has heard complaints from constituents about the scam, including from Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson.
Private information, once in the hands of criminals, can be resold or used for illegal purposes, Van Drew said. He is calling for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to educate the public about possible frauds and for an investigation into how people’s information may have been misused.
“Additionally, there should be a comprehensive evaluation of the Medicare claim, payment and filing process,” Van Drew wrote in a letter to Seema Verma, CMMS administrator.
Levinson said he became suspicious after being repeatedly called and offered more braces after ordering one leg brace, by companies that would only identify themselves as “Medicare providers.”
He played along to get their mailing addresses, he said, allowing them to send him various braces and then returning them. Then he filed a complaint with the Medicare fraud office, with names and addresses of several companies.
“The first one was a very expensive leg brace,” said Levinson. “About two weeks later, I get a call again.”
This time the caller asked, “You need one for the other leg?” he said. The callers all had foreign accents.
Later calls offered back braces, shoulder braces, etc. The company was ready to send anything after Levinson talked to someone who was said to be a doctor, he said.
On Tuesday, federal officials announced charges against 24 defendants, seven of them in New Jersey, who were working with five telemedicine companies, dozens of durable medical equipment companies and three licensed medical professionals in a $1.2 billion scam to bill Medicare for unnecessary medical equipment.
Among those arrested was Dr. Joseph DeCoroso, of Toms River, who was charged in a $13 million dollar conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud for writing medically unnecessary prescriptions for DME while working for two telemedicine companies, often without meeting the patients, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey.
Officials said it’s one of the biggest frauds the inspector general’s office has seen.