Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

Medicare doesn’t make house calls

August 9, 2007

Several weeks ago, I got a call from an elderly woman. Her story was of a kind that we hear from time to time. She told of man who showed up at her door about two months earlier, saying he was from Medicare. He had important information.

Already, most of you know where this is going. Medicare doesn't make house calls. It would be my guess making an appointment to see a Medicare representative would be an involved process.

Of course, it was a scam and what the woman should have done was get a good description of the man and his car and call the sheriff's office.

But, of course, she didn't. Believing the man to be what he said he was, she invited him in. They had a long talk. She probably served him coffee or tea and a snack. The man had time to listen to the woman as she told him of her health problems. He sympathized and told of his own

"He was so nice. He told me about his sick daughter and everything."

At some point, he told her why he had knocked on her door. Medicare was about to go belly up, he said as an official representative of the agency. The Medicare supplemental insurance she and her husband had wouldn't help either and she was told she ought to drop it. Her only recourse was to buy another policy from a company he recommended, the self-described Medicare man said.

Convinced the man was telling the truth, the woman bought the policy for her and her husband.

Soon, her husband had a number of medical bills. When they submitted them to the company, they were all rejected for one pretense or another. The man wouldn't answer phone calls and soon the company wouldn't either.

In many cases, the situation would have ended badly. But the couple's son-in-law is a lawyer. He made the right calls and knew the right threats. The phony Medicare man and the company backtracked, reimbursing the couple and (if I understood correctly) got them reconnected with their previous supplemental provider.

Once it all settled down, the woman's physician visited her for a monthly checkup. Unfortunately, the story wasn't new to the doctor. She had heard of the "Medicare going broke" visits.

The doctor encouraged the woman to call the newspaper so that others could be warned. And that's what she did.

We don't have the resources to investigate the company, but the woman didn't really want that anyway. She wanted the newspaper to warn others.

I would urge anyone to slam the door on anyone claiming to be going door to door for Medicare and notify authorities as soon as possible. If this is a common practice, I hope these bloodsuckers get busted soon. They really have to be driven by a twisted motivation. It takes a good deal of effort and charm to hoodwink their elderly victims. As much, it would seem, as any number of legitimate enterprises that don't run the risk of landing them behind bars and facing hefty fines.

That celebration of swindle deserves even greater punishment.

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