For Immediate Release:
Nov. 21, 2019
Chief of Communications
Deputy Chief of Communications
Arkansas Senior Medicare Patrol Issues Alert About DNA, Genetic, and Cancer Screening Schemes
Goal of scam is to get access to client Medicare information that could leave seniors facing bill for "free screening."
(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) – The Arkansas Senior Medicare Patrol (AR SMP) is alerting older adults of a scam that is sweeping the nation and is on the rise in Arkansas where companies offer free DNA, genetic, or cancer testing in exchange for Medicare information. The goal of the scheme is to steal the Medicare number for medical identity theft.
The AR SMP, which empowers seniors to prevent Medicare fraud, has received reports from Medicare clients who have gotten solicitations from companies offering free tests referred to as cancer screening or test; DNA genetic testing or screening; pharmacogenomics-medication metabolization; and dementia screening or test (among others).
Seniors are contacted by testing company representatives in a variety of ways, including in person at community and senior citizens, at home through door-to-door solicitation, and through digital communications like phone, email and social media. Clients are told that Medicare will pay all costs for the screening, and they are asked for their Medicare number before they do the DNA cheek swabs. Medicare is billed for the services, which have not been deemed medically necessary and do not have an order for the testing from the client’s doctor. Medicare may deny these claims, leaving the client with the bill. Some clients reported gettng results showing “no cancer;” others reported never getting any test results.
The AR SMP has gotten several reports from Arkansans across the state targeted by this scheme, giving their Medicare information along with a DNA cheek swab. Some examples include:
- Seniors receiving a call from an individual stating they are “with Medicare” and stating that the screening is free. Clients are told that if they do not get the screening and are later diagnosed with cancer, Medicare will not cover the treatment.
- Seniors have gotten a call offering a free DNA test kit to be mailed to them, with the promise that Medicare will pay 100 percent of the claim. They ask for a Medicare number and address to mail the kit, and the client is told to swab their cheeks at home and return the kit in the postage-paid package provided.
- Seniors have gotten online solicitations through email and social media with instructions to click a link to receive the free kit. They are then taken to websites giving information about the “new changes in Medicare making the testing free to seniors.” These websites make it all seem legitimate.
- Seniors have agreed to genetic testing in group settings from visitors or solicitors at senior centers and senior living communities.
- Seniors have been approached through door-to-door solicitations at their homes in senior living communities. The door-to-door salesmen are often dressed in scrubs to look like medical professionals. These solicitors tell the clients they are offering free genetic testing. They get the Medicare number and cheek swab on site and tell the senior they will get the results of the DNA analysis within a week to ten days.
Genetic testing fraud happens when Medicare is billed for a test or screening that was not medically necessary or not ordered by a client’s treating physician. Genetic or DNA testing in a group setting is not routinely covered for Medicare clients. Because there is confusion about Medicare’s coverage for genetic tests for cancer and other conditions, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a fraud alert on the topic to help inform consumers. It advises the public to be suspicious of anyone who offers free genetic testing and then requests a Medicare number. You can read the OIG alert here.
If you are a senior-centered organization or community such as a senior center, wellness center, senior housing community, or independent senior living community, please help protect seniors from being targeted by scams through screening individuals or groups asking to speak or host a presentation or social event for your seniors. You should also remind seniors about the risks of giving personal information to solicitors and visitors and make sure you know the content and topics speakers intend to cover.
The AR SMP suggests the following to seniors:
Do not agree to a DNA genetic test (cheek swab) from someone you do not know. If it is medically necessary, it must be ordered by your personal physician.
Do not give personal information, and do not agree to receive a DNA testing kit, from someone who contacts you offering a “free kit.”
Refuse to give personal information, especially your Medicare number, to accept free screening services such as a cheek swab from someone at a community event, a local fair, a farmer’s market, or any other community event.
Always review your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) or Explanation of Benefits (EOB) for charges for questionable lab tests. The words “gene analysis” or “molecular pathology” as service codes may indicate questionable genetic testing.
Report incidents and solicitations to the AR SMP – 866-726-2916.
About AR SMP:
The AR SMP strives to empower Medicare recipients in the fight against healthcare fraud. The AR SMP provides information and educational presentations to: help PROTECT seniors from Medicare fraud and scams; educate on how to DETECT potential fraud, errors, and abuse; and urge seniors to REPORT suspicious activity and errors on Medicare Summary Notices – thereby helping to protect the integrity of the Medicare Trust Fund.
Kathleen Pursell is the AR SMP Project Director and has been with the AR SMP program 14 years. The AR SMP program is funded by a grant from the Administration for Community Living (ACL) (90MPPG0031) and administered through the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Aging, Adult & Behavioral Health Services. To learn more about the AR SMP, click here.