Scammers are siphoning off government money intended for the elderly and people with disabilities. Now the federal government is cracking down on hubs across the country known for stealing medicare funds. One such hub is Houston, Texas.
It’s been called the “largest national Medicare fraud takedown in history.”
Gabrielle Banks, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, says nearly 200 people have been indicted in the Houston area for Medicare fraud, and nationwide 300 more were arrested this year for steeling a total of $900 million.
“There are these strike forces that operate in nine major areas in the U.S. and Houston is among the most prolific in terms of Medicare fraud,” she says.
Banks says Miami has the most cases overall, but Houston wastes the most money in fraudulent medical charges. But doctors aren’t the top perpetrators of this crime – they account for only about 10 percent. Most scammers are clinic operators who know exactly what they’re doing.
There are two keys to getting one of these schemes underway Banks says. One: you need beneficiaries – people who legitimately have Medicare cards. Scammers might find them at a homeless shelter, senior centers, bingo games, bus stations or a McDonald’s. Many scammers send out recruiters – which is illegal – to get people to agree to services.
“Often the services aren’t provided, and often they’re definitely not needed,” Banks says.
Two: you need a doctor who has set up a Medicare provider account to access services and a bank account.
“With those two pieces in play, anyone can get this operation going,” Banks says. “There are scams involving psychiatric services that weren’t needed, physical therapy, ambulance services, home health care, wheelchairs that aren’t needed. It really runs the gamut.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.