Joplin resident Keith Adams knew that the deliveries of medical equipment and devices that kept showing up at this doorstep weren’t things he needed. He knew that, despite claims in the packaging, neither he nor his wife’s doctors had ordered the items.
Given those certainties, he also knew that the bills for the orders should be ignored, so he and his family weren’t out any money.
For many others, that was not the case. On April 9, the Department of Justice indicted and charged 24 people in connection with a Medicare scam that the government said resulted in more than $1.2 billion in losses by “hundreds of thousands” of elderly or disabled Americans.
For Adams, it started with a package of insulin needles and alcohol swabs that showed up unexpectedly. The company that sent the package, he said, asked for a co-payment of $52.57. Adams said his wife had no need for the supplies that were sent.
The deliveries didn’t stop, Adams said. Other supplies and equipment continued to arrive, sometimes asking them to pay hundreds of dollars for the items.
“We alerted Medicare on this one and the doctor’s office,” he said. “Supposedly our doctor had ordered it, but when we contacted (the doctor), they had not.
“I called and told them we were returning it,” he said. “And I thought it was a manufacturer, and I asked, ‘Do you have many of these returns?’ And she went silent. Then we got two more, we got one from Arizona and we got one from California, and we refused delivery on one of them and I took one down to UPS and sent it back. We haven’t been out any money, but they billed us over $357.”
A statement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent to the Globe said the organization recommends people avoid communicating with purported medical suppliers and that those who receive medical items or equipment without having ordered it immediately notify the Department of Health and Human Services by calling 1-800-447-8477 or 1-800-633-4227.
“We tell Medicare beneficiaries to never speak to a supplier over the phone if they (the beneficiary) did not initiate the call,” the CMMS statement said. “A beneficiary needs a prescription for any durable medical equipment item and they cannot receive that prescription without seeing their physician first. It’s important for beneficiaries to see their physician to determine if the durable medical equipment or supply is necessary, as they may be doing more harm using a DME supply that is not medically necessary.”
Unsolicited packages or deliveries should be refused or returned without opening or using the items inside, the statement continued.
Adams said that when he has contacted the companies that have sent him and his wife the medical supplies, they immediately disengage when questioned.
“You can’t get any information out of them as to how they got our number or who ordered it,” he said.
Three licensed medical professionals were among the two dozen indicted earlier this month, the DOJ release announcing the charges said.
“The charges announced today target an alleged scheme involving the payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes by DME companies in exchange for the referral of Medicare beneficiaries by medical professionals working with fraudulent telemedicine companies for back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces that are medically unnecessary,” the announcement said.
Prosecutors directly alleged that the companies involved paid physicians to make unsolicited or unnecessary prescriptions for the equipment the companies sent. The companies then tried to obtain payment for those deliveries.