Medicare fraud involving motorized wheelchairs is big business. The crime is commonly committed by unscrupulous doctors and medical supply companies that are out to make a few extra bucks. Net News Publisher reports that a former officer of a San Bernandino Durable Medical Equipment (DME) company and an Ahaheim doctor colluded to scam Medicare beneficiaries by billing the benefits program for power wheelchairs and other medical supplies that were medically unnecessary or never provided.
The story details that the 58-year-old doctor and a 48-year-old co-conspirator sold wheelchair prescriptions to the medical supply company officer and others. The 49-year-old medical supply company officer then fraudulently billed approximately $1.5 million to Medicare and received $1 million from those claims. The DME officer paid the physician and the co-conspirator kickbacks for the unneeded prescriptions.
Court records show several of the Medicare beneficiaries were attracted to various medical clinics by promises of free items including juice and vitamins. (It is amazing what “free” items victims will go for.) Once at the clinic, the beneficiaries received unnecessary power wheelchairs, reportedly worth $6,000 a piece. Some victims also had difficulty with rejecting the delivery of the wheelchairs from the medical equipment company.
A jury found the DME company officer, the physician and the co-conspirator guilty of one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks. The medical equipment supply officer was found guilty of seven counts of health care fraud and was sentenced to 51 months in jail, three years of supervised release and restitution to be determined at a future date. The physician was found guilty of 11 counts of health care fraud and was sentenced to 27 months in prison, three years of supervised release and restitution of $87,846. The co-conspirator is scheduled to be sentenced.
Power wheelchairs are meant to be used by people who have limited mobility. (The Medicare beneficiary victims were obviously mobile enough without wheelchairs to make it to the medical clinic for free juice and vitamins.) Fortunately, this scam was halted and prevented from rolling along so that those with physical disabilities, who truly deserve the wheelchair benefit, actually get them.