Scam Alert: COVID-19 scams still going on

The COVID-19 emergency is over, but Medicare fraud is still happening in our area. Recently, I have heard stories of scammers contacting people on the phone offering “free” COVID testing kits. The scammer often is charming to talk to and acts like they have a great deal of personal information about you. The caller ID display on your phone may look like they are calling from Medicare or a local phone number.

The scammer then talks the beneficiary into giving out their Medicare number. The scammer can then bill for false claims on your behalf, including billing for services or medical equipment your doctor didn’t prescribe. Scammers defraud Medicare billions of dollars every year. This money is your tax dollars.

So what can you do to stop Medicare fraud?

• Contact your doctor if you believe you need to get tested for COVID-19, or make sure you visit an approved testing site.

• Only give your Medicare number to a trusted representative, such as your health care providers.

• Treat your Medicare number like your Social Security or credit card number. Do not provide it to anyone over the phone.

• Do not engage with anyone coming to your home and offering “free” COVID test kits or other durable medical equipment.

• Be cautious of unexpected calls, don’t be concerned about hanging up on the caller.

• Do not click on links with which you are unfamiliar; this could put your device at risk for viruses and malware.

• Be cautious when purchasing medical supplies; ensure you know the provider.

• Be wary of surveys that offer money, gifts or free supplies in exchange for personal information.

• Carefully review your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) when you receive it each quarter. Make sure the items billed to Medicare are correct.

What does Medicare currently cover, with the ending of the public health emergency on May 11, 2023? Medicare will continue the cover vaccines without any cost sharing. You may see cost-sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Medicare will not cover over-the-counter tests. Telehealth services will continue through Dec. 31, 2024.

If you suspect that you have fallen victim to one of these scams, report the problem to your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program to report the issue. Senior Medicare Patrol programs have volunteers and staff trained to help you work through the problem. They can answer your questions, listen to your concerns and help with complaints. To locate your local SMP program, call 1-877-808-2468.

Contact Teresa Hatfield at the Meadowlark Extension Office at 785-634-4125 or in Jackson, Jefferson and Nemaha counties.


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