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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reducing waste in Medicare

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

One of the most popular arguments of opponents of the health reform law is that the law does nothing to ‘fix’ Medicare, which they claim is full of waste and fraud. Like most of the rhetoric coming from the opposition, this argument is just not true.

The new law contains several provisions that not only work to strengthen and extend the Medicare trust fund, but also cut waste, fraud, and abuse within the system. But how exactly does the new law go about tackling such a seemingly daunting task? For starters, by educating the Medicare population on how to recognize scams, so they won’t become a victim of fraud.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) along with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Administration on Aging launched a fraud prevention education campaign aimed at Medicare beneficiaries to ensure they are not only aware of their Medicare benefits, but that they have the information they need to protect themselves from potential scams or fraud.

Part of the impetus for launching the campaign was that many seniors were reportedly asked for personal information in order to receive their $250 tax-free rebate check (the check that is meant to provide assistance to those who enter the prescription drug donut hole). According to CMS Acting Administrator Marilynn Tavenner,“[s]eniors should be on the look-out for scams where people they don’t know ask them for their personal information in order to get their checks. This is not how the process will work.” By educated the Medicare population, they hope to avoid situations like this in the future.

The initiative will run through August, as the rebate checks are mailed to eligible seniors who have entered the donut hole. The campaign will run national radio ads throughout the summer that will encourage people to check out their website, www.stopmedicarefraud.gov, where consumers can go to learn more about how to fight fraud and report scams in their area.

“Empowering consumers to prevent fraud is essential in preserving the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs," said Assistant Secretary Kathy Greenlee. “This joint education and outreach campaign will not only protect seniors from fraud and scams but will help protect the Medicare trust fund as well.”