How scammers are using telemedicine to defraud Medicare

Donna Bell, MD, a Florida-based OB-GYN and primary care physician who practices via telemedicine, is claiming her credentials were stolen in a scheme to defraud Medicare, according to Fox 4.

A recent Fox 4 investigation revealed that scammers are using telemedicine to commit medical equipment fraud. Specifically, medical supply companies will allegedly hire physicians to prescribe a device, such as a back brace, to a patient who doesn't need it in order to reap a profit from Medicare, federal agents told the news outlet.

Dr. Bell believes one of these companies exploited her credentials to write fake prescriptions. She said she has been receiving phone calls inquiring about a pain cream that she never prescribed to patients.

Dr. Bell contacted the medical supply company and threatened to notify the inspector general if it didn't correct her information. After she made the call, she said the suspicious behavior stopped.

Ryan Lynch, a federal agent with the Medicare Strike Force unit in Tampa, Fla., told the news outlet that telemedicine fraud is on the rise. "When doctors are being paid $150 to write a prescription and they don't have a real relationship with the patient, that's a kick back," he explained. Dr. Bell noted that she makes much less — about one third of that — for each prescription she writes.

To avoid becoming a victim of telemedicine fraud, Dr. Bell recommends physicians fully vet each medical supply company they work with.

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