LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Dozens of doctors and nurses across the nation are under arrest, accused of billing Medicare a combined $225 million dollars in false claims. Local doctors say they could be using you to get away with the crime.
Doctors say the high elderly population makes South Florida a hotbed for those preying on the older population. But with some simple steps, experts say you can help curb the up to $90 billion dollars a year stolen through Medicare fraud.
"With today's arrests, we're sending an important message: health care fraud is not easy money," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press conference on Thursday.
Federal authorities announced a bust of unprecedented proportions-- 111 doctors, nurses, and therapists across the nation, arrested for stealing from Medicare. In one case, a Detroit podiatrist billed Medicare about $700,000 for procedures amounting to little more clipping patients toenails.
"What it is called is upcoding. That you provide a service and you bill it for a bigger service, a more expensive service," Lee County Medical Society President Dr. Shahid Sultan explained.
Sultan says the growing problem has deep roots in Florida- more than three dozen doctors were busted in Miami and Tampa on Thursday.
"These are people who are robbing us. They're not just robbing Medicare, they're robbing us," Sultan said.
That's because taxpayers end up footing the bill for Medicare fraud. Sultan recommends Medicare patients take a simple second-look at statements from their provider.
"They should go through their Medicare summary notice that comes after the services are provided. Go through it, and make sure the services listed were provided to you," Sultan said.
If you sense something suspicious, Lee County Medical Society is open for calls and complaints, each individually researched.
"When somebody comes in this town, we review all their credentials. We review all their complaints, all that went down with their career," Sultan said.
Lee County Medical Society also advises seniors be weary of anyone selling medical products door-to-door. Even if they say the product is covered through Medicare, often times it's fraudulent.