Can Home Health Agencies Provide Rebates?
Q: My brother-in-law has a low income and is getting home healthcare services. Recently I stopped in and saw a fancy new TV. When asked where it came from, my brother-in-law said it was a rebate from the home healthcare agency. Does Medicare or Medicaid allow this? We live in South Florida.
A: No. In fact whether he's aware of it or not, your brother-in-law may be involved in a Medicare fraud. If he's receiving payment, free goods or services in exchange for his Medicare number, that's considered a crime than can result in jail time. It's becoming more common, especially in Medicare fraud hot spots like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and the south Florida area where you live.
In a recent high profile Medicare fraud takedown, actor and entrepreneur Roberto F. Marrero, who played bits parts on Miami Vice, America's Most Wanted, and Unsolved Mysteries, was arrested for massive Medicare fraud. Marrero, who became a Medicare-licensed healthcare provider in 2007, is accused of submitting $20 million in bogus bills for supplying purported home healthcare services for diabetic patients.
Prosecutors say Marrero used his ill-gotten proceeds to collect a couple of Lamborghinis, a Ferrari and a Bentley. The indictment stated that Marrero and his wife also paid thousands of dollars a month to a "recruiter," Enrique Rodriguez, who supplied patients having Medicare cards. Rodriguez is accused of bribing patients to participate.
Here's how this scam works: Crooks target low-income Medicare beneficiaries to persuade them to participate. Your brother-in law may have been asked, or even coerced, into "selling" his Medicare card number and signing weekly or monthly papers to verify that home healthcare services were rendered (even if they weren’t.) In exchange, he may have received the TV as a one-time payment.
The situation can be potentially dangerous for Medicare beneficiaries and their families. If you are approached or receive a call by someone offering money, free services, free groceries, free transportation or TVs for your Medicare number, say no. If you suspect fraud, Medicare has an area on its website where you can report fraud.
Resource online: StopMedicareFraud.gov
Sources: "Miami Actor, Cable Station Founder, Arrested In Medicare Fraud Takedown," Jay Weaver, The Miami Herald, May 14, 2013.