By Frank Bailey, Director, Health, AARP Education & Outreach
Did you know that fraud in the health care system drives up insurance premiums and other health care costs? In fact, research suggests that anywhere from $100-300 billion of the over 2 trillion dollars spent on health care each year is lost to fraud and abuse.
How does this affect you? First, it will cause you health insurance rates to go up. It is like getting a bill for an extra $1,000 from your health insurer. Plus, you may be prey for schemes without even knowing it.
Join the effort to stop the con artists and thieves who abuse the health care system and take advantage of all of us. Spot the fraud and take action.
What if someone tries to get your health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security numbers? This is medical identity theft, and it can lead to fraud.
Here are actions you should take:
* Guard your insurance numbers the way you protect your credit card or bank account numbers. Never give these numbers to a stranger on the phone, in an email, or on a website.
* Do not carry your health insurance card all the time. Put it in your purse or wallet when you need to use it at a doctor's appointment or pharmacy. Another option is to make a copy of your card and black out all the numbers but the last four.
* Walk away if someone offers you free medical equipment or health services, groceries or gift cards and then asks for your insurance information.
What if you see something that doesn't look right on your insurance Explanation of Benefits or your Medicare Summary Notice? This, too, could be health care fraud.
Here is what you can do:
* Make it a habit to review your statements from your doctor, hospital, pharmacy, insurance company or Medicare.
* Look for incorrect charges or mistakes on your statement. For example, check for a service you did not get, multiple billings for the same service, or claims for services that your doctor, hospital, medical equipment supplier or pharmacist never provided.
* Check with your provider or plan before assuming that the error is fraud. It could be an honest mistake.
* Contact your insurance company or Medicare if you are not satisfied with the response you get.
For more tips on how you can fight health care fraud, visit www.aarp.org/fightfraud.
Frank Bailey, Director of Health at AARP, leads the Association's member and consumer health education and outreach program, which includes work on issues such as Medicare, prescription drug affordability, long term care, prevention and wellness, wise use of medications and the new health care law (the Affordable Care Act).