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Dangers of health care fraud

Medicare recipients can sign up for or change plans from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 during the open enrollment period. This period is also when criminals peddle bogus Medicare and Medicare D prescription drug plans.

Many try to tempt seniors with offers of services and products that are not actually covered by Medicare.

The following are some pointers to avoid Health Care Fraud:

• Never give your Medicare or Medicaid number to strangers

• Don't be pressured into getting medical equipment, supplies or health insurance

• Ask your physician to recommend medical services and equipment

• Don't let anyone talk you into contacting your physician to request a service or product that you don't need.

• Never give your Medicare or Medicaid number to anyone for a "free" service or piece of equipment.

• Remember, if it is free - they don't need your Medicare or Medicaid number.

• Never accept medical supplies or equipment from a door-to-door salesperson.

• Never let anyone look at your medical records or prescription medications unless you've contacted your physician or pharmacist and gotten their approval.

Also, keep track of your appointments and medical services, supplies and equipment. When you receive your Medicare Summary Notice(MSN), check the following:

• Your Medicare Number should match the number on your card;

• If your name and address are incorrect, contact bo th the Medicare carrier and Social Security;

• "Services Provided" is a brief description of the service or supply, the number of services and service code. Also compare these to your records.

Common fraudulent practices are billing for goods and services not provided, billing for old items as new items, billing for patient visits that didn't take place, billing for more hours than are in a day, concealing ownership of related companies, and falsifying credentials and double-billing.

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