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Who's Paying for Your Shoes

By Dian Vujovich

The cost of health care in this country is astounding. Why coverage costs so much and premiums increase the older and/or sicker one gets is like a bad joke. Then by the time you reach age 65, Medicare kicks and so do necessary supplemental policies—the premiums of which are not fixed and also increase. Throw in Medicare fraud and the picture gets even uglier.

According to a Las Vegas Sun story earlier this year, http://tinyurl.com/lkkedn, last year (2008) Medicare recovered about $20.4 billion, of an estimated $80 billion,related to fraud. And spent about $120 million on fraud investigation.

Back in the 1990s, when there still was a Governor’s Club and I was still a member, I took my Aunt Pat there for lunch one day. She was visiting from Minnesota.

Lunching at the table next to us were four doctors. I know this about their profession because Aunt Pat was eavesdropping. Minnesotans do that. To this day she reminds me of that lunch and how the docs where talking about any number of different ways they could, as Aunt Pat recalls, “screw Medicare.” Minnesotans don’t typically mince words.

At that time I was in that Medicare-isn’t-a-part-of-my-life mode so didn’t really pay too much attention to what the docs, or my Aunt, were saying. But now that I’m older, Medicare fraud interests me. A lot. And according to tales from the aged that I’ve personally heard, is pretty prevalent.

Here’s one that comes right from a 92-year old babe who gets her hair done at the same salon as I do. (Well, to be fair, it’s really not a salon but a good old-fashioned one-of-a-kind beauty shop not unlike the one in the movie “Steel Magnolia’s”.)

The last time I saw her we got to talking about Medicare and she, I’ll call her Anne, mentioned that the diabetic shoes she needs to wear cost about $130 dollars a pair. Then told about how the sales person at the store where her last pair was purchased told her that because she was a diabetic, Medicare would cover the cost of her shoes. Anne thought that was a good thing and went for it.

A month or so later, when Anne received an invoice from Medicare showing how much the shoes cost, she was speechless: The store had billed Medicare $360 for the shoes.

A nifty profit made on the store’s part no doubt. But the move did nothing to instill anything good about its proprietor in Anne’s heart, or, the fraud in the Medicare system.

“That’s not right!” my well-coiffed friend pronounced. And she’s right. It isn’t right.

It’s estimated that there are some 20 million people with diabetes in America today, 25 percent with foot problems. Wonder how much we’re paying for all those shoes.

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