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U.S. Department of Health begins campaign to combat senior fraud

March 16, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday, March 15 that they will be running a nationwide television and radio campaign to help senior citizens avoid Medicare fraud.

The campaign, which will consist mainly of public service announcements (PSA), is designed to emphasize the importance of protecting sensitive information such as social security numbers and Medicare numbers. The PSAs will also focus on teaching seniors how to recognize common scams, and help in recruiting volunteers to the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) - a program designed by the Administration on Aging to engage seniors in fraud prevention.

"Empowering consumers to prevent fraud is essential in preserving the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee. "The new Senior Medicare Patrol media and outreach campaign will protect seniors from fraud and scams.

"It will also increase the number of dedicated volunteers who are working around the country to protect the Medicare Trust Funds."

The first PSA premiered on Tuesday, March 15 at a regional fraud prevention summit in Detroit which was sponsored by the HHS and the Department of Justice.

Although the campaign is being orchestrated nationally, the PSA campaign will devote particular focus on 18 states with high fraud rates, including Michigan, California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, and Louisianna. Each state will receive a specialized PSA with a local phone number directing seniors to nearby SMP officials.

Each year, health care systems, both public and private payers, reportedly lose billions to fraud, waste and abuse.

The Senior Medicare Patrol program works to reduce the incidence of fraud by recruiting and training retired professionals and other senior citizens to recognize and report health care billing errors and suspected instances of fraud. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently awarded $9 million in grants to enhance volunteer programs and outreach efforts of SMP programs.

"The valuable partnership between CMS and AoA is a critical complement to the fraud-fighting tools used across HHS, such as claims reviews and investigations," said Peter Budetti, director of CMS' new Center for Program Integrity. "We continue to work with and rely on our beneficiaries, who experience these scams firsthand and are the first line of defense taking actions to prevent as well as detect health care fraud.

"We at CMS appreciate the efforts of millions of beneficiaries, who have been educated through SMP projects, and their work to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare."

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