What’s your retirement dream? Will you visit every country on your bucket list? Will you learn to paint or bike across America? Volunteer in a community garden, or buy a cabin by a river and go fishing every day? Or maybe you’re already living your retirement dream, and still adding adventures to your bucket list. If you’re like most people, Medicare figures into those retirement plans, and it also provides a medical safety net in case of disabilities.
Over 55 million Americans, young and old, are enrolled in Medicare today. But we’re not the only ones cashing in on our hard-earned Medicare benefits. In a 2015 sweep, the National Medicare Strike Force charged 243 defendants with over $700 million in fraudulent Medicare billings. That’s bad news for all of us, because it drains funds from a program that we all pay into and count on to take care of us at some point in our lives.
Medicare fraud is a kind of medical identity theft: criminals use the identities of real citizens to bill Medicare for more treatment than was actually provided or treatment that never happened at all. If your identity is used for enough Medicare fraud, you could actually find your benefits reduced or denied.
Since the Affordable Care Act was implemented, the government has increased its crackdown on Medicare fraud, with its own Strike Force and through a team of Medicare “bounty hunters,” contractors are hired to audit Medicare claims for fraud. You can help ensure that you’ll reap the bounty of all you’ve paid into Medicare by watching for any signs of fraud. Of course, guard your Social Security Number. If you’re using Medicare or handling medical bills for another family member, check the benefits statements carefully, making sure the dates and treatment match up with the care that was actually given. If you see a problem, report it immediately at Medicare.gov. If you’re not using Medicare and receive notices, report it even faster.
You pay into Medicare so that your Golden Years can be happy, healthy, and secure. So don’t let it become a golden ticket for some criminal to fund their early retirement.