By Ginny Paulson, SMP Resource Center Director
Medicare loses billions each year due to fraud, error, and abuse. This not only compromises the Medicare Trust Fund, but individual beneficiaries’ future benefits and health are placed at risk as well.
This problem is being addressed at many levels of government, including the nationwide Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program. SMPs work at the grass roots level in all 50 states plus Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The SMP mission is to empower and assist Medicare beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers to prevent, detect, and report health care fraud, errors, and abuse through outreach, counseling, and education.” SMPs caution all beneficiaries to:
- Treat your Medicare card and number like you would a credit card. Medicare cards and numbers contain Social Security numbers, making them valuable to thieves interested in both medical identity theft and financial identity theft.
- Only share Medicare and other health care identification cards and numbers with trusted sources, such as your health care providers.
- Rely on your doctors for medical advice and prescriptions, not advice or offers of medical services from unknown persons who call, visit, or approach you in public.
- Keep records of your health care visits, services or equipment received, test results, etc. The SMP Personal Health Care Journal is a good health care record keeping tool.
- Save your Medicare Summary Notices (MSNs) and Explanations of Benefits (EOBs) and review them for accuracy.
- Ask questions of your provider, Medicare plan, or 1-800-Medicare when:
- You don’t understand the charges billed
- You don’t think you received the service
- You feel the service was unnecessary
- You were charged for the same Medicare-covered product or service twice
SMPs assist beneficiaries in addressing suspected fraud, errors, and abuse. If fraud or abuse is suspected, SMPs refers cases to the proper authorities for further investigation. To locate the SMP in your state, such as to request an SMP Personal Health Care Journal, visit the SMP Resource Center website www.smpresource.org or call 1-877-808-2468.