Scammers are out in full force after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, according to Linda Madsen, North Dakota Senior Medicare Patrol program director.
Madsen said scam artists have been calling senior citizens in northwest North Dakota, including some in Minot, and asking for their Social Security numbers or Medicare ID numbers, credit card information or bank routing numbers so they can "issue a new Medicare card" or simply "verify some information" because of the new law.
Madsen said one Minot woman who was scammed realized immediately that she had been the victim of fraud and was able to call her bank and put a freeze on her account and complain to the state attorney general's office. She doesn't know of anyone who has lost money yet because of the scams, but she is sure there have been some.
The government and legitimate organizations with which people do business would never ask for personal information over the phone. They have the information they need.
Part of Madsen's job is to educate seniors about this type of fraud as well as other types of Medicare fraud.
The North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities at Minot State University recently received a three-year $533,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will assist the North Dakota Senior Medicare Patrol program. There are eight regional agencies in North Dakota and volunteers that work with each.
Madsen said people with the project primarily set up booths at senior citizen centers or health fairs or talk to seniors about how to recognize Medicare fraud. Common signs include being billed twice for the same service or being billed for a service they didn't actually receive. People should examine medical bills closely. If they notice signs of fraud, the first step would be to call the health care provider to clarify what the charges are for. People can also report fraud to the SMP project.
Madsen said there aren't many cases of Medicare fraud on the part of health care providers in North Dakota, but scammers are a big problem.
There are 54 Senior Medicare Patrol programs across the country. The programs receive funding from the Administration on Aging, which is part of the Administration for Community Living, and work in close partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.