Federal authorities on Friday charged more than 30 individuals in connection with an alleged Medicare-fraud scheme that took as much as $2 billion out of the pockets of taxpayers before it was detected.
The scheme revolved around tricking seniors into getting their cheeks swabbed for unnecessary DNA tests that would supposedly tell them whether they were genetically predisposed to serious diseases, including cancer. The defendants would then charge Medicare for the swabs. In total, they are alleged to have collected $2 billion in reimbursements, with the typical bill running between $7,000 and $12,000. The plot involved telemarketers, doctors, and a lab running the DNA tests, although many of the Medicare patients never received their test results.
“A decade ago, it would have given Medicare beneficiaries pause if someone wanted to get a swab from their cheek of their saliva,” said Shimon Richmond, the Department of Health and Human Services’ assistant inspector general for investigations. “Today people know and recognize what (genetic testing) is, and they think ‘I can get that done, and I can get it done for free and find out if I have health issues that I need to address.’”
Officials warned Medicare enrollees not to be duped by such scams, and only to have a genetic test done if their primary doctor recommends it.