The Washington Post takes a look at Medicare fraud involving electric wheelchairs and scooters:
"Let me put it to you this way: An $840 power wheelchair, Medicare pays close to $5,000 for. So there's a huge profit margin there. Huge," said one California man who participated in a recent fraud scheme involving wheelchairs.
Medicare used to set its payments for most power wheelchairs based on manufacturers' suggested retail prices. It did not lower those prices significantly for years, even when it was obvious that wholesale prices were far, far lower. So for scammers, each wheelchair brought a hefty profit.
The story concludes:
Today, even while the wheelchair scam is in decline, that same "pay and chase" system is allowing other variants of the Medicare equipment scam to thrive.
They aren't perfect. But they work. In Brooklyn, for instance, the next big thing is shoe inserts. Scammers bill Medicare for a $500 custom-made orthotic, according to investigators. They give the patient a $30 Dr. Scholl's.
In Puerto Rico, the next big thing seems to be arms and legs.
In one case there, two dozen companies billed Medicare for $5.3 million in prosthetic legs inside of a year. In many cases, their "patients" had no record of amputations in their medical history. Many of them didn't even live in Puerto Rico. But Medicare paid for the legs.
I'm generally not a fan of anonymous sources, and the information about Medicare paying $5000 for an $840 wheelchair could have been paraphrased without losing much effect. Since the quoted person is a crook, a reader isn't sure whether to trust him, anyway. But all in all, it's a pretty illuminating account. That's not to say that fraud can't also afflicts private insurers, too. But that's no reason not to go after Medicare fraud.