You’ve seen the ads. The SCOOTER Store, which peddles motorized wheel chairs for the elderly, touts their ability to get Medicare to pay all or most of the cost of the chair.
Here’s one ad:
On Wednesday, their Medicare billing tactics earned their headquarters a raid by the FBI. From CBS News:
On Wednesday, 150 federal and state agents raided The SCOOTER Store headquarters in New Braunfels, Texas, and agents remain on the site. CBS News just spoke to an FBI agent Thursday morning who said workers will not be allowed back into headquarters through the day as the nation’s largest power wheelchair company remains under investigation.
The agents came from the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, the FBI, and the Texas Attorney General. They held some workers back for interviews and told others to leave the building immediately, and leave their desks alone.
A video taken by one worker inside the headquarters shows, presumably an official, saying to workers, “Please exit the building when you have your personal belongings. There’s an exit right here.”
Here’s the video:
The mission of the company, it seems, is to “bulldoze” doctors into writing prescriptions for the chairs – whether or not their patients need them. Once the prescription is written, it’s almost unheard of for Medicare to question the validity.
A report by the Office of the Inspector General estimates that 80% of claims for SCOOTERS are fraudulent and that even on the valid claims, the SCOOTER store overbilled the taxpayers by an average of 400%. Medicare claims they were overbilled by $108 million. Of that, they recovered $19.5 million last year.
President Obama has often said that one way to achieve significant savings, even within so-called ‘entitlement’ programs like Medicare, is to crack down on fraud, and that is exactly what the administration has done.
“Today’s enforcement actions reveal an alarming and unacceptable trend of individuals attempting to exploit federal health care programs to steal billions in taxpayer dollars for personal gain,” said Attorney General Holder. “Such activities not only siphon precious taxpayer resources, drive up health care costs, and jeopardize the strength of the Medicare program — they also disproportionately victimize the most vulnerable members of society, including elderly, disabled and impoverished Americans.”
“Today’s arrests put criminals on notice that we are cracking down hard on people who want to steal from Medicare,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius. “The health care law gives us new tools to better fight fraud and make Medicare stronger. In addition to the arrests made today, HHS used new authority from the health care law to stop future payments to many of the health care providers suspected of fraud, saving Medicare resources and taxpayer dollars from being lost to fraud in the first place.”
According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately $2.4 billion in Medicare fraud was recovered in 2012 alone. While that is a drop in the bucket for the agency’s $555 billion budget, the mere threat of federal enforcement is sure to incentivize Medicare providers to pay more attention to the laws, because ultimately, stopping fraud in its tracks is the goal.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She is the Senior Editor for Addicting Info. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|