Expanded "Senior Patrol" Program Targets Medicare and Medicaid Fraud

Article excerpt

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala, joined by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), recently announced 41 grants totaling $7 million to expand a program that recruits and trains retired professionals to identify waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The Senior Medicare Patrol Project grants, including 29 new and 12 renewed grants, will be distributed among 38 States, including Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. They are administered by HHS' Administration on Aging to teach volunteer retired professionals such as doctors, nurses, accountants, investigators, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, teachers, and others how to work with Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Volunteers work in their own communities and in local senior centers to help identify deceptive health care practices, such as overbilling, overcharging, or providing unnecessary or inappropriate services.

"We are committed to a strong, long-term effort to protect the integrity of the Medicare Trust Fund and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in Federal health programs," Secretary Shalala said. "We have undertaken a wide range of actions within HHS. We are working with the millions of honest health care providers. And equally important, we want to help enable older Americans themselves to work closely with their family members, friends, and neighbors to recognize problems and to report them. That's why today we're expanding the Senior Patrols project nationwide."

The Senior Medicare Patrol Project grants, originally named the Health Care Anti-Fraud, Waste and Abuse Community Volunteers Demonstration Projects, were authored in 1997 by Senator Harkin. The current projects have tested different models and in the past 18 months have trained more than 6,000 retired volunteers to serve as resources and educators for older persons in their communities. The trainees, in turn, have trained more than 70,000 Medicare beneficiaries how to spot problems. …