Beware of Medicare Scams

            It’s open enrollment season for Medicare, and that means increased risk of scams. Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their policies from October 15 to December 7. So during this time, be on the lookout for identity thieves, calling to get your information by posing as government agents. Don’t answer any calls or give any information to anyone claiming they need to “verify” your Medicare number (which is usually the same as your Social Security number) in order to issue you a new card. There are no actual plans to issue new Medicare cards and “Medicare will never call you and ask for your personal information, such as your Medicare number, over the phone. Never,” says CMS spokesman Aaron Albright.

             Take precautions. As a general rule, never give out your account numbers. Medicare, Bank Account or otherwise. Additionally, monitor your records carefully for unusual activity, including your Medicare Summary Notice that you should receive quarterly. Don’t fall for offers of free supplies in exchange for your credit card number for shipping charges.

             Be careful during this open enrollment season through December 7 and be on the lookout for scammers.

 For more information, check out the source of this article by Sid Kirchheimer from AARP called “Beware of the Fall Frauds” located at http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2014/medicare-open-enrollment-scams.html.

Photo Source: http://www.ivhp.com/Site/DontbeaVictimofMedicareScams.aspx

Are Uber Drivers Getting Their Tips?

A U.S. federal judge recently ruled that a ride-sharing service must face a lawsuit alleging that the company has been pocketing tips meant for the drivers (Detroit Free Press, September 19, 2014). Uber Technologies is a smartphone-summoned car service based in San Francisco that has been charging a 20% surcharge on rides. Uber was founded in 2009 and is currently in 35 countries and more than 100 cities. It is valued at $18.2 billion and is the most valued ventured-back company in the world.

Filed in January, the class-action suit alleges that Uber has been keeping a “substantial portion” of the gratuity as additional revenue rather than sharing with its drivers. This lawsuit also accuses the company of misleading customers about the true cost of its service. The complaint characterizes Uber’s practice as unfair and deceptive because Uber keeps most of the surcharge and it’s not a gratuity.

Uber, Lyft and other car-booking companies have been facing a growing number of legal challenges. In Chicago, cab drivers sued the city claiming that these smartphone-summoned services are not subject to the same regulations governing conventional taxi companies. In Connecticut, Uber and Lyft have also been accused of racketeering by taxi and livery operators who accuse the companies of preying on established businesses and cutting legal corners by partnering with affiliated drivers instead of owning cars. That way, these companies claim they are different from taxi dispatchers and shouldn’t be forced to comply with existing regulations, such as driver background checks and liability insurance.

 

Pricey Medical Billing Errors Can Cost Thousands: What You Can Do to Prevent it From Happening to You.

How frequently do you think you’ve been overcharged by a medical provider? According to medical bill expert and founder of Medical Recovery Services, Pat Palmer, your chances are pretty high. According to Ms. Palmer, eight out of ten hospital bills contain numerous overcharges. These inaccuracies can add thousands of dollars to your medical costs. However, by carefully reviewing your bills you can check for common errors and follow up with the provider to make sure they are removed from your bill.

Here are a few tips that were mentioned in a recent online article.

1.  Check for duplicate charges. This one is self-explanatory however, easiest to spot on an itemized bill. If a charge doesn’t make sense, call the provider and make them explain it to you in clear terms.

2.  Look out for canceled tests or procedures that were never performed. To spot these errors, keep a list of all tests ordered at the doctor’s office or hospital so you can compare to the bill.

3.  Be on the alert for “upcoding” of a medical charge. This is where the hospital inflates a diagnosis or charge to one that is more serious than the one you were actually seen/treated for. Upcoding is illegal and fraudulent.

 For more information check out the full article “8 Medical Bill Errors You Need to Watch For” and, if you think you may have been overcharged, also check out Medical Recovery Services webpage at billadvocates.com. They have advocates who can review your medical bills and provide you with advice. Also, check out the story in “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” to read about how others have struggled with hefty medical bills and what can be done to prevent it from happening to you.

 

US officials expected to announce Ebola screening at airports

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.cidrap.umn.edu

Federal officials are finalizing details on Ebola screening steps for travelers arriving at US airports, which may be announced in a few days and may resemble the kinds of questions that outbreak countries are asking departing passengers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said today.

The risk of another travel-linked Ebola case, such as the one in Texas, can never be reduced to zero until West Africa’s outbreak is extinguished, he said at a media telebriefing today. But he said the CDC and other government agencies are taking a hard look at additional steps, focusing on ones that won’t hamstring the response process underway overseas.

The three main outbreak countries have so far screened about 36,000 people departing on airlines, with three fourths of them bound for destinations outside the United States. The CDC has trained airport screeners in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which have flagged 77 people with fever and 3 people with other symptoms. As far as the CDC knows, none of the people with fever had Ebola, and most had malaria, a common illness in that part the world, Frieden said.

"I can assure you we will take additional steps, and the details will be worked out and announced in a few days," he added.

Senator suggests screening steps

US Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a statement today saying he spoke with Frieden about tougher screening at US airports and is pleased that the CDC is preparing to…

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Workers Balk at Task Of Ebola Cleanup in Dallas

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.cidrap.umn.edu

Adequate safety is a major concern for health care workers treating infectious diseases. Today’s post is shared from nytimes.com/

DALLAS — More than six months after an outbreak of Ebola began its rampage through West Africa, local and federal health officials have displayed an uneven and flawed response to the first case diagnosed in the United States.

In the latest indication, state and local authorities confirmed Thursday that a week after a Liberian man fell ill with Ebola in Dallas, and four days after he was placed in isolation at a hospital here, the apartment where he was staying with four other people had not been sanitized and the sheets and dirty towels he used while sick remained in the home. County officials visited the apartment without protection Wednesday night.

The officials said it had been difficult to find a contractor willing to enter the apartment to clean it and remove bedding and clothes, which they said had been bagged in plastic. They said they now had hired a firm that would do the work soon. The Texas health commissioner, Dr. David Lakey, told reporters during an afternoon news conference that officials had encountered “a little bit of hesitancy” in seeking a firm to clean the apartment.

The delay came amid reports that as many as 100 people could have had contact with the victim, Thomas E. Duncan. And it came a day after the hospital acknowledged it had misdiagnosed him when he first visited.

When Mr. Duncan, 42, was first…

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Watch Out for Online Fraud

AARP has advised its members to be careful as they use Internet services. For example, have you ever participated in the following online activities:

  1. Clicked on a pop-up ad?
  2. Opened an email from someone you didn’t know?
  3. Signed up for a free trial offer?
  4. Sold some merchandise in an auction?
  5. Sent funds through an Internet money transfer service?
  6. Posted your home address, phone number, vacation plans, names of children or grandkids on social media?

If so, you are more likely to be duped by a scam. AARP Washington state director Doug Shadel directed an AARP Fraud Watch Network survey of almost 12,000 Internet users to discern the differences between online fraud victims and nonvictims. According to the survey results, age does not play a factor. What does matter is engaging in the online activities above. The results also showed that victims often recently experienced a stressful event (such as a job loss or illness) and scammers target emotionally vulnerable people because it is easier to force them into making bad choices. (AARP Bulletin, March 2014)

Heat Illnesses and Workplace Safety

People who work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and are more likely to develop a heat-related illness. Heat stroke is the most serious type of heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. When this happens, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10-15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has provided information to help recognize heat stroke and administer the proper first aid. Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, hallucinations, chills, throbbing headache, high body temperature, confusion/dizziness and slurred speech. Take the following steps to treat a worker with heat stroke: (1) call 911 immediately; (2) move the worker to a cool, shaded environment; (3) cool the worker by soaking their clothes with water; (4) spraying/sponging/showering them with water and (5) fanning their body.

Employers should take precautions to protect their workers from heat illness. The CDC offers guildelines, including scheduling hot jobs for the cooler part of the day, acclimatizing workers by exposing them for progressively longer time periods to hot work environments and providing rest periods with water breaks. The CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provide more informational resources at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.   

Whistleblower Protection for Reporting Fraud? Must File OSHA Complaint within 30 Days

AARP reports that Dr. Farid Fata in Michigan has been accused of prescribing unnecessary chemotherapy treatments to his patients, including some who didn’t even have cancer. Dr. Fata’s nurse, Angela Swantek, noticed that medications were being administered improperly and patients were in the chair longer than necessary, which created more money for the doctor. Dr. Fata allegedly bilked Medicare for $91 million. Ms. Swantek was afraid of retaliation because Fata “oversees my license.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) has a Whistleblower Protection Program that protects workers from adverse action by employers (such as firing or laying off, blacklisting, demotion, denial of benefits, intimidation, threats, and/or reduction of pay or hours) for exercising their rights under OSHA. An employee has the right to file an OSHA complaint, participate in an inspection, talk to an inspector, seek access to employer exposure and injury records and raise a safety or health complaint with the employer. If your employer does discriminate or retaliate against you, you have the right to file a retaliation complaint with OSHA.

No specific form is required to file a complaint but you can: (1) send a letter to OSHA (to find the contact information for your nearest OSHA office go to www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html); (2) call the OSHA area office located nearest to you; (3) download and send a completed Notice of Whistleblower Complaint Form to your OSHA area office (www.whistleblowers.gov/whistleblower_complaint.pdf); or (4) file an online complaint (https://www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.html). However, your discrimination complaint must be filed with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged retaliation.