WASHINGTON, March 2 The U.S. is enlisting the help of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) as it cracks down on Medicare fraud, which costs a staggering $60 billion a year to taxpayers at a time they least can afford it.
As the nation faces a financial crisis and crippling recession, the Obama administration's fiscal 2011 budget calls for investing millions in programs proven to prevent healthcare fraud, including the National Hispanic Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) led by NHCOA, to recoup billions lost to malfeasance. The SMP is an innovative program that educates Latinos, who are extremely vulnerable to these scams, on Medicare fraud.
"It's appalling that people are taking advantage of older Hispanic Americans, who are victimized because they are trusting and don't understand English or the Medicare system," said Dr. Yanira Cruz, president and CEO of NHCOA. "These are honest, hardworking individuals who are looking to enjoy their golden years, who count on Medicare to go to the doctor and be healthy."
Fraud includes billing for services already paid by Medicare and charging for services, tests or equipment that weren't provided.
NHCOA is the premier national organization dedicated to understanding the needs and securing the wellbeing of Hispanic older adults and their families. Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.
Medicare fraud is one of the most serious problems facing older Hispanics, who often don't recognize it or know how to report it.
The National Hispanic SMP is an innovative program that educates Hispanics on Medicare fraud. It aims to reach and serve the hard-to-reach older Hispanic adults through community-based programs, focusing on Medicare fraud prevention, detection and reporting.
Hispanics become victims of fraud most often by salespeople making unsolicited home visits or phone calls, forcing them to make an immediate decision, selling Medicare plans that don't fit their specific needs and conning them into providing their Medicare card and signing documents they don't understand.
The Administration on Aging (AoA) advises older Americans to protect their Medicare number as they would their Social Security number and not to provide it in exchange for free meals, prizes or free medical equipment or services.
"While older Americans are often the target of Medicare fraud, all of us pay," said Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging. "Everyone benefits when we come together to fight these criminals and empower seniors on how to deter, detect and defend against healthcare fraud."
To prevent Medicare fraud among Hispanics, NHCOA is conducting a series of Needs Assessments in different regions of the country with great presence of Latinos. The assessments aim to understand the challenges different Hispanic subgroups face and help local organizations reach out to them. The first assessment was in Texas; the second are in Washington, DC, and Florida. They will include forums with community-based organizations and Hispanic older adults in March in Washington.
One of the biggest challenges is reaching older Hispanics and educating them on Medicare fraud. That's where NHCOA comes in. For more than 30 years NHCOA has been successfully reaching out to Hispanic older adults through its network of affiliates across the country in ways that are culturally, linguistically and age appropriate.
At least 3% of the $2 trillion U.S. taxpayers spend on healthcare a year are lost to fraud. There's enormous potential for savings in reaching out to Hispanic older adults. To that end, NHCOA has developed a portal on its website (www.nhcoa.org) that provides resources on empowering Hispanics to combat Medicare fraud and has a toll-free line (1-866-488-7379 to answer questions from community-based organizations wanting to educate Hispanic seniors on how to prevent Medicare fraud. NHCOA is producing three radio PSAs in Spanish with key messages to prevent Medicare fraud.
NHCOA is the premier national organization dedicated to understanding the needs and securing the wellbeing of Hispanic older adults and their caregivers, the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. population. For information, visit www.nhcoa.org
SOURCE National Hispanic Council on Aging