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Healthcare fraud: How it affects the consumer

Roughly 60 billion healthcare dollars are lost each year due to fraud, waste and abuse. How does this theft affect you the taxpayer and healthcare consumer?

The answer is surprisingly simply ­ it hits your wallet first. Insurance premiums are increasing at a staggering rate ­ 33% in the last five years. If this continues, most individuals will not be able to afford any type of insurance, costing taxpayers even more because they will be the ones footing the bill for the uninsured.

Insurance premium increases hit the employer even harder. Many times employers (especially small businesses) are forced to reduce their workforce to accommodate the rising costs or even cut healthcare benefits entirely.

Prescription drugs are an area that is greatly affected by fraud. Fraudsters are fans of selling counterfeit medication. Consumers ingesting this medication (many times laced with poison ­boric acid for example) can end up in the emergency room with complications costing thousands.

The recent passage of Healthcare Reform is also proving to be good news for fraudsters. Many consumers have little to no knowledge of the bill and scammers have found multiple ways to cheat the innocent out of their money.

Fraudsters prey on the fear and confusion brought about by the bill. Going door-to-door selling fake insurance, scammers advertise an “ObamaCare” plan and insisting consumers better act fast due to a “limited enrollment” period. These scams bilk consumers out of thousands of dollars and leave them without any real insurance, so if a medical emergency where to occur, they would be left footing the bill.

So, what can the consumer do to help combat healthcare fraud? First, understand exactly what you’re being charged for and always ask for clarification on any charges for services that you do not recognize. Second, know where your medical identification is and alert proper authorities when your insurance card has been stolen ­ medical identity theft crimes can leave you sorting out medical bills for the rest of your life. Finally, be a conscientious healthcare consumer. Be aware of current fraud schemes and check out the Food & Drug Administration website to ensure your medication is not on the counterfeit list.

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