Medicare 411 – Seniors: Say No To “Free” Genetic Tests

Date: 
Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - 13:55
Author: 
Greg Dill

Greg Dill
Courtesy: Medicare

If someone approaches you offering “free” genetic testing or cancer screening, turn that person down.

Medicare does not cover such tests unless a doctor who is treating you orders them because he or she deems them to be medically necessary.

Laboratory representatives have reportedly been taking swabs of the inside of the mouths of Medicare beneficiaries at health fairs, senior centers, residential complexes for older people and veterans’ centers.

Some seniors are getting cold calls about genetic testing kits. The caller usually offers to send a “free” genetic testing kit and asks only that you return the completed kit with your insurance information — including a Medicare number.

Beneficiaries’ numbers are then used to bill Medicare for thousands of dollars of medically unnecessary genetic testing.

More creative schemes involve sending invitations to an “ice cream social.” Seniors listen to a presentation about “no cost” genetic testing and/or cancer screenings. During the presentation, seniors are asked for their Medicare number — and Medicare is later billed thousands of dollars for each test.

Seniors are also being asked for their Medicare numbers and other private information after being brought into health fair booths for DNA swabs of their cheeks. In some instances, seniors are given gift cards and told that Medicare will be billed for the tests, even though there is no physician order for them.

Remember:

• Do not give your DNA to a stranger! Beware of people who cold-call you or show up at your front door uninvited to push genetic tests and/or cancer screenings. Watch out for people who claim such tests are “100% covered by Medicare.”

Medicare does cover such tests, but only when they are deemed medically necessary and have been ordered by your doctor.

• Look for charges on your Medicare Summary Notice statements for unnecessary tests or screenings that you didn’t want or were not ordered by your doctor.

In general, do not give out your Medicare number or Social Security number to anyone you do not know and trust. Be cautious of unsolicited requests for your Medicare or Social Security numbers. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.

Medicare will never contact you out of the blue and ask for your Medicare number or other personal information.

And, do not consent to any lab tests at senior centers, health fairs or in your home. Be suspicious of anyone claiming that you will pay nothing for genetic tests and cancer screenings.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud, we want to hear from you. Please call us, toll-free, at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also report suspected fraud at 1-800-HHS-TIPS.

Or you can contact your local Senior Medicare Patrol, a terrific group that educates people with Medicare about how to avoid healthcare fraud and abuse. You can reach Senior Medicare Patrol at 1-877-808-2468, or visit https://www.smpresource.org.

One last bit of advice: Enter your phone number on the Do Not Call Registry: https://www.donotcall.gov.

Greg Dill is Medicare’s regional administrator for Hawai‘i, California, Nevada, Arizona and the Pacific Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE
(1-800-633-4227).

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