AgeOptions Receives Federal Funding to Continue Statewide Fraud Prevention Program
AgeOptions, the Area Agency on Aging of suburban Cook County, has received a new three-year grant for $177,927 per year from the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer its statewide Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) program that empowers Medicare beneficiaries to fight health care fraud.
SMP volunteers teach Medicare beneficiaries throughout Illinois how to protect, detect and report health care fraud. In 2011, SMP staff and volunteers reached more than 32,000 Illinois residents through SMP outreach efforts. With this grant, AgeOptions will increase its volunteer recruitment efforts and enhance support of SMP volunteers.
“The SMP Program reaches thousands of people in their own communities because we have highly skilled volunteers presenting this information across Illinois,” said Jason Echols, health care consumer protection coordinator at AgeOptions. “Our volunteers provide presentations, share information at health fairs and work in their communities to empower people on Medicare to take simple steps to protect themselves from health care fraud.”
Health care fraud not only costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year, it can also lead to beneficiaries losing critical health care benefits when they need them, Echols said. A common scam occurs when companies offer “free” medical equipment, supplies or services to beneficiaries but then bill Medicare for something more expensive. If the beneficiary needs that service or equipment a year later, Medicare’s records will show that the person already received it, and Medicare may deny the claim.
To protect yourself from health care fraud and abuse, follow these three steps:
• PROTECT your Medicare and Medicaid numbers. Do not give them to anyone over the phone or to someone who comes to your door. Only share them with health care providers you trust and who are providing you with services or supplies. Never give your Medicare or Medicaid number to someone in exchange for “free” services.
• DETECT health care fraud by reading your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits. Watch for claims for services that you did not receive, services that were different from what you received or services that you didn’t need.
• REPORT potential fraud, waste or abuse by contacting the Illinois SMP program at AgeOptions: (800)699-9043.
With support from AoA, AgeOptions has administered the SMP Program since 1995 and today partners with agencies throughout Illinois to support program volunteers and provide outreach on health care fraud. These agencies include all 13 Illinois Area Agencies on Aging, Catholic Charities, Senior Services Associates, White Crane Wellness Center, The Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly (CLESE), Alivio Medical Center/Pilsen Senior Center, Solutions for Care, Palatine Township Senior Citizens Council and Westlake Hospital.
The AgeOptions toll-free number serves as a central intake line for the Illinois SMP program. Anyone who would like more information about the SMP program, wants to report potential fraud or is interested in volunteering in their community is encouraged to call (800)699-9043 or visit the website at illinoissmp.org.