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Feds warn to check your statements after unwanted COVID tests billed to Medicare

Indianapolis woman’s statement showed four labs in Chicago
Judy McEvoy examines her Medicare statement for suspicious charges
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Posted at 8:20 PM, Sep 11, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS— Check your insurance statements carefully.

The federal government has issued a warning because companies are billing for COVID-19 tests that people never ordered in the first place.

Judy McEvoy of Indianapolis contacted WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney after she found strange charges on her husband’s Medicare statements.

“I always check,” said McEvoy. “I know a lot of older people don’t. They just kind of pitch them.”

McEvoy received notices in March and then again in July 2023 from Medicare that included charges for COVID-19 tests.

“Then I got really upset and I called you,” said McEvoy to WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney. “We’ve never taken a COVID test. We’ve never gone online and asked for free tests.”

WRTV Investigates reviewed her statements and found four different labs in Chicago billed Medicare.

The McEvoys have not had to pay anything out of pocket, but their statement shows Medicare paid $94 for each test, for a total of $376.

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  • WRTV:  Hundreds of dollars for these tests that you never even got?
  • McEvoy: Right.
  • WRTV: And that comes out of our tax dollars?
  • McEvoy: Exactly.
  • WRTV: We all pay for Medicare.
  • McEvoy: Bottom line is, I knew it was fraud.

All kinds of fraud, mistakes and abuse cost Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

“It’s a lucrative business,” said Nancy Moore, director of Indiana Senior Medicare Patrol, a grant-funded project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aimed at preventing healthcare fraud.

Moore said bad actors buy stolen Medicare numbers on the dark web.

PREVIOUS | How your information is being sold on the dark web

“They were using the end of the public health emergency to get rid of their test kits. A lot of people like Judy didn’t even receive them,” said Moore. “We are getting tons of complaints. We have gotten over 100 complaints.”

WRTV Investigates did some checking and found the four labs on the McEvoy’s Medicare statements are located within five miles of each other in Chicago, and they registered to do business in Illinois.

WRTV contacted all four of the labs via phone.

Two of the labs’ phone numbers were disconnected, and we left messages for the other two labs and haven’t heard back.

Indiana Senior Medicare Patrol recommends checking for services, products and equipment you did not order or did not receive.

“Read your statements,” said Moore. “You have the right to question any charges.”
 

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Moore recently found suspicious charges for urinary catheters on her Medicare statement.

"I never received those, but Medicare was billed almost $3,000,” said Moore. “I don't use those products. I called and got a new Medicare number."

WRTV Investigates connected Judy McEvoy with Senior Medicare Patrol, which regularly reports fraud to the federal agencies that oversee Medicare.

Judy McEvoy said she reported the issue to Medicare and plans to ask for a new Medicare number for her husband.

"It's just frustrating,” said McEvoy. “I know there's so much fraud going on."

WRTV Investigates contacted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about McEvoy’s case and the four labs on her statements.

"To protect the integrity of the investigative process, CMS doesn't comment on specific cases,” the agency said in a statement to WRTV. “While each complaint may not receive an individual response, we do investigate each report."

The Federal Trade Commission says once the COVID-19 public health emergency ended on May 11, 2023, Medicare and other health insurance plans stopped paying for many over the counter tests.

That means companies and bad actors could end up billing you personally, according to the FTC.

"We are very concerned about people's personal information out there,” said Colleen Tressler, Senior Project Manager of FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education. “We want people to know if they get these test kits and other merchandise that they did not order, by law they do not have pay for it.

TIPS FROM THE FTC:

  • Don’t pay it. By law [consumer.ftc.gov], companies can’t send you things you didn’t order and then demand payment. If you get a bill like this, report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov [reportfraud.ftc.gov].
  • Check your Medicare Summary Notices (MSN) and Explanations of Benefits (EOB) to see if your account was billed. Statements are available by mail or online at Medicare.gov [medicare.gov]. Look for services, products, or equipment Medicare paid for that you didn’t get. Do the statements show any double charges, or things you or your doctor didn’t ask for?
  • If you suspect Medicare fraud, call your health care provider or Medicare plan and ask for an explanation. If you aren’t satisfied with their response, call your local Senior Medicare Patrol [consumer.ftc.gov] for help filing a report or call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE.
  • Report Medicare fraud to the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General online [oig.hhs.gov] or at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). It helps them track down the scammers and try to stop them.

FULL STATEMENT FROM CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES (CMS)

To protect the integrity of the investigative process, CMS doesn’t comment on specific cases.

While each complaint may not receive an individual response, we do investigate each report. If a person with Medicare receives items or services they have not ordered or authorized, or if they notice their Medicare Summary Notice includes items or services they did not order or receive, they should contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) immediately to report it.

If beneficiaries suspect someone else is using their Medicare Number or if they would like a new Medicare beneficiary number as a result of these test kit billings, they should call 1-800-MEDICARE to get assistance from a CMS caseworker. Information and guidance on how beneficiaries can protect their Medicare card can be found here [medicare.gov].

CMS continues to remind people to use the same vigilance to guard their Medicare numbers and cards that they use for Social Security and credit cards. They should only share Medicare numbers with trusted health care providers or verified COVID-19 vaccine administrators. News reporters may find this fraud reporting information [cms.gov] helpful.

Consumers can report suspected medical identity theft to the Health & Human Services fraud hotline: 800-447-8477 (800-HHS-TIPS) or the National Insurance Crime Bureau at 800-835-6422.”