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Volunteers Ready to Help Mainers with Medicare Issues

Have a Medicare question, but don’t know who to call? Perhaps you’ve noticed a charge on your Medicare statement for a service you didn’t receive and you wonder if this could be Medicare fraud. Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging can help Medicare beneficiaries, their families and their caregivers with a variety of Medicare issues.

The Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), in a partnership with the Maine Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Elder Services, and Legal Services for the Elderly, provide free Medicare counseling and assistance to Mainers statewide through two federally-funded programs: The Maine State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and the Maine Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).

The Maine SHIP and SMP have trained staff and volunteers available at each AAA to provide education and assistance with all aspects of Medicare, including Medicare errors, fraud and abuse. “With the complexities of Medicare today, health insurance counseling from the AAAs is more important than ever. Scammers who defraud the Medicare program count on consumers not understanding the benefits and choices now available in this national health care program”, says Betty Balderston, Statewide Coordinator for the Maine SMP at Legal Services for the Elderly in Augusta.

Recently, numerous articles and news stories have focused on the billions of dollars lost each year to Medicare errors, fraud and abuse. What can any one person do to help stop the loss of funds in this important national health care program? Balderston shared the following real-life story of how one Mainer helped stop Medicare fraud:

“In January 1998, during the days of power outages after the Ice Storm, an ambulance company owner in Downeast Maine offered to transport seniors from a location with no electricity to a nearby location with power. A few months after the ice storm, one of those seniors received a statement from Medicare showing payment for an ambulance trip. Knowing she hadn’t received a medically-necessary ambulance trip, the Medicare beneficiary reported the ‘mistake’ to Medicare. After 2 years of investigation by the federal government, the ambulance company owner was convicted of health care fraud and sentenced to time in federal prison.”

“Most Medicare beneficiaries don’t realize the importance of reviewing their Medicare statements,” says Balderston. “This is a perfect example of how one person really can make a difference!”

If you need assistance with a Medicare issue, suspect Medicare fraud, are interested in learning more about becoming a SHIP/SMP volunteer, or would like a speaker on Medicare issues for your community group or organization, contact your local Area Agency on Aging, toll-free at 1-877-353-3771.

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