Get an Offer for a Free Medical Device? There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.Posted by Medicare Made Clear
The phone rings, you pick it up and on the other end of the line is someone with an offer — a free offer, or so they say.
A person or a recording says you can get a knee brace, diabetes test strips or even a motorized scooter at no cost. They promise to bill Medicare or your health insurance company.
Keep This in Mind — There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.
AARP.org points out it’s illegal for medical device companies to make unsolicited calls to people with Medicare. And the Social Security Act prohibits it. There are only three exceptions to this rule:1
- if you gave the company written permission
- if you received an item from the company
- it was covered by your plan or if the call is regarding that item
If you do get a call, an email, a letter or another kind of offer for a low- or no-cost medical device, you should never assume any item is truly free.
Susan Morisato, President, Insurance Solutions, UnitedHealthcare says, “Even if it’s something you may want, never assume that it would be free. Even if they say ‘Oh, absolutely, we’ll just bill your insurance. They’ll pay for it.’ I think healthy skepticism around that is always a good thing because most insurance plans, also Medicare, will say they will only pay for things that are medically necessary. I may want a scooter because I don’t want to walk to the mailbox. But if you are physically capable of doing that really, or even if you have arthritis and are sore some days but really are physically capable it may not be covered. For someone to call you out of the blue or send you a letter or send you an email saying absolutely it’s free, absolutely question that and talk to your healthcare provider.”
Medicare only covers durable medical equipment and other items that are medically necessary.
You may want a scooter, but if you don’t need one, Medicare won’t pay. Any conversation about your medical device needs to start with your doctor or healthcare provider. If you receive an offer, your doctor or healthcare provider should be your first call.
Still, some doctors may get forms from medical device companies requesting items on behalf of their patients. These problems may happen because these offers grab patients’ attention. ‘No-cost’ is quite the sales pitch. Doctors may be too busy to truly review a request for an item. Try to make sure your doctor is working with you to determine your best treatment options. And don’t be afraid to ask about costs.
Beware. The Better Business Bureau and AARP warn “freebie” offers can be scams. The caller may be trying to get access to your private information.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Coverage: Find out what Medicare covers and how often they’ll cover it — Medicare.gov
Medicare and Durable Medical Equipment (DME): MedicareMadeClear.com
1 Telemarketing By Durable Medical Equipment Suppliers, Department of Health and Human Services USA, Office of Inspector General, March 2003