Ruiz introduces bill to protect seniors from scams

Protecting Seniors From Healthcare Fraud Act

Palm Springs, Calif. - The Federal Trade Commission estimates one million people were victims of health care fraud in 2011.

Seniors on Medicare are often prayed upon by scam artists who call them with a story that entices them to give out their Medicare, or Social Security number. The request can be as simple as saying that medical records need to be updated.

Congressman Raul Ruiz is introducing a bill designed to stop health care fraud among senior citizens.

"It is one of the most disgusting things that we can imagine," Ruiz said. "That a con artist is trying to take advantage of a vulnerable senior who perhaps is being confused over recent changes in our health care law."

Dr. Ruiz was joined by local law enforcement and senior advocacy groups at the Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs to introduce his new "Protecting Seniors From Healthcare Fraud Act of 2013."

If passed, numerous local and national agencies would work together to give seniors the tools to recognize the constantly changing ways criminals try to break into their bank accounts. 

"It's important because we need to make sure that all the different agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice and all the other agencies that collect this information work together to send reports and educate our seniors as these tactics are being used," Ruiz said. "They're constantly being changed, so we need to constantly be vigilant and protect our seniors."

The bill would add a list of the top 10 health care scams onto a quarterly mailer that is already being sent to seniors by the Medicare office.

"We'll be opening that mail," California Alliance for Retired Americans Vice President, Susan Adams, said. "And paying a lot of attention to it."

Adams says criminals try to scam seniors all the time.

"Some of them are obvious," Adams said. "We have a big laugh about it. But it makes us think, how much are we falling for that are perhaps more devious, well-devised schemes."

The bill has the backing of the AARP and many other organizations who support seniors and want them to know that they should protect their Social Security, Medicare and credit card numbers by never giving them out to someone they don't know who calls them over the phone.

Ruiz expects the cost of enacting the Healthcare Fraud Act of 2013 to be minimal.

It will be discussed in a House of Representatives committee before potentially going up for a vote on the house floor.

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