Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Tips for avoiding healthcare fraud

 

Special to The Miami Herald

This past week, lots of you called me to say that you called your members of Congress to talk to them about how Medicare continues to use Social Security numbers for identification, even though this increases the risk of identity theft.

Lets keep it up. Many of you asked me several questions about related subjects, so today I am going to give you some answers to your questions.

Health Care Fraud

• Be on the lookout for the most common types such as “miracle” cures or products that don’t work; claims made to your health-care insurance for care you didn’t receive; or discount medical plans that don’t save you money.

• Talk to your health-care provider before buying any medication, supplements or health-care equipment.

• Don’t sign blank health insurance forms (unfortunately I spoke to several Spanish speakers that did just that at the clinics they attend).

• Don’t give insurance information to people offering free medical equipment.

• Check insurance statements or Medicare Summary forms and report errors or claims for services you didn’t get.

• Before signing up for a discount plan, get the details in writing and make sure providers in your area accept the plan.

• If you fill prescriptions online, please only buy from certified pharmacies. You can visit: www.vipps.info (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites), to make sure you are using a reliable pharmacy.

Powers of Attorney

Another question that was brought up this week was something I really have not dealt with, and that is powers of attorney. A ‘power of attorney’ is an agreement in which you give another the power to act on your behalf. The person who acts on your behalf is called an “attorney-in-fact,” although this person need not be a lawyer.

Powers of attorney can be useful in many situations when the attorney-in-fact is trustworthy — for example, to allow a trusted adult son or daughter to manage an elderly parent’s finances.

However, this power can be damaging when it is abused. For example, a person may misuse this power for his or her own gain by cashing checks made out to you; taking money from your accounts for themselves; transferring ownership of your property such as your home or other expensive items away from you.

How can you help protect yourself? Don’t let anyone – even a family member – make you sign a power of attorney against your will. I have seen this happen to seniors because they are threatened to be put in a nursing home if they don’t sign. Before signing any legal document, have a trusted professional, such as a lawyer or outside person review it with you. Check your financial statements regularly and question what you don’t understand.

If you think you are being taken advantage of, contact the Florida Adult Protective Services office in Miami at 786-257-5361 for information and assistance.

If you would like more information on some of these crimes, contact our office and we will be happy to send you literature on these topics.

Thank-yous

In closing, I want to recognize two Crime Watch of Miami-Dade staffers who contributed to last week’s column on bullying: Education Director Joel Mesa who handles our Youth Crime Watch program in the schools, and Alina Lopez, our crime prevention practitioner who also works in the schools and Neighborhood Watch programs.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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