Telephone Scams Play Off of New Diabetic Mail-Order Supplies Program

Telephone Scams Play Off of New Diabetic Mail-Order Supplies Program

We’ve received reports from the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) in Chico about a new telemarketing scheme that plays off of the diabetic mail-order competitive bidding program that started July 1st. (See our recent news article for more information on that program.) Beneficiaries are receiving calls from people (and in some cases, from “robots” – or recorded messages) promoting a mail-order diabetic supply service, even though they are not diabetic.

These recent calls appear to be coming from within the United States, yet investigation suggests they are coming from Canada or other countries.

The new Medicare rules, part of the Durable Medical Equipment Prosthetic Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS) expansion, require that diabetic suppliers competitively bid with Medicare to become authorized vendors for mail-order supplies. As of July 1, 2013 only those companies chosen a an authorized vendor can sell Medicare-covered supplies to beneficiaries. This change has caused many companies to lose their accreditation as a contracted Medicare supplier, and has caused some beneficiaries to scramble, seeking new Medicare-contracted mail-order suppliers to get their diabetic supplies, such as lancets and test strips. This change has been especially troubling for people who are home bound and cannot go to their local Medicare-contracted pharmacy, causing them to be targets of unsolicited telemarketing calls.

Medicare will help pay for supplies if a mail-order contract supplier is used or if supplies are obtained from a local pharmacy or storefront. Local stores don’t have to be Medicare-contracted suppliers unless they’re also offering diabetic supplies through the mail. Check with your pharmacy to find out if you can get your diabetic supplies at the new mail-order price. Based on bids submitted, beneficiaries and Medicare will see prices, on average 72% lower on diabetic testing supplies nationwide. Consumers, physicians and other providers can find a list of Medicare contract suppliers in their areas by visiting  www.medicare.gov/supplier/home.asp or call your local HICAP at 1-800-434-0222.

If you receive an unsolicited call offering diabetic supplies or asking for personal banking information, please collect as much information from the caller as you can. Then report it to our SMP office at 855-613-7080. The more info we have, the faster we can help stop these scams from reaching more people.

Again remember that Medicare or Social Security will never call you to verify your address or bank account information or anything else. Unless you have called them first and requested a return call back contact, Medicare or Social Security does not make outbound calls.

See our section on Medicare Fraud for more information or for info on volunteering with your local SMP.

This article is edited from a press release submitted by Paula Holden with Passages HICAP in Chico, California.

Karen Fletcher
Our blogger Karen J. Fletcher is CHA's publications consultant. She provides technical expertise, writing and research on Medicare, health disparities and other health care issues. With a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, she serves in health advocacy as a trainer and consultant. See her current articles.