Santa Ana, CA— While free sounds good, it’s often too good to be true. This goes for Medicare-covered medical equipment as well. Our California Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) has received numerous reports statewide of large newspaper ads that lure Medicare beneficiaries to call to get a free, “Medicare-covered” back brace in exchange for their Medicare number. The ad encourages seniors to call within the next 48 hours; take action and “reclaim their youth”. Those who call the company who places these ads, will be asked to give their Medicare claim number as a way to “verify” they are a Medicare beneficiary.
“We’ve had reports of this alleged scam from throughout the state,” said Micki Nozaki, Senior Medicare Patrol Project Director. Many of the ads boldly state across the top: “Medicare covers remarkable new device that can give seniors freedom from lower back pain.” They also unabashedly display the official Medicare red, white and blue logo, yet have no such official approval or affiliation with Medicare. “This leads to confusion,” continued Nozaki, “and seniors being misled to believe this back brace is indeed free and Medicare-covered when it is not.” All Medicare-covered durable medical equipment requires a prescription from the beneficiary’s doctor.
“This type of advertising blatantly by-passes the standard durable medical equipment approval process and is a red flag for fraud,” states Sandy Diaz, Manager of SMP Outreach and Volunteer Coordination. Oftentimes in such scams, companies are just looking for easy ways to collect Medicare numbers so they can bill Medicare for items or services never delivered, or for items or services that are much more expensive than what the beneficiary receives.
California SMP encourages seniors, family members and news media to be on alert for this ad and other such ads and to report any suspicious advertising and fraud to us at 1-855-613-7080. To learn more about fraud and fraud prevention, visit our website at: www.cahealthadvocates.org/fraud-abuse/. You can also call your local Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) at 800-434-0222.
The California SMP program was awarded to California Health Advocates in 1997 when the SMP program was first established by federal law. California Health Advocates is an independent non-profit organization that provides quality Medicare and related health care coverage information, education and policy advocacy. SMP volunteers are available in each county through the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP), which provides benefits counseling and community education directly to those with Medicare and their families. For more information on CHA, SMP and HICAP, visit CHA’s website at cahealthadvocates.org.
SMP Project Director