DNA testing is a practice that is becoming more common in the medical field. According to the National Institutes of Health, one of the main benefits of genetic testing is the ability to make more informed decisions about the future of your health care. Unfortunately, some scam companies are using these tests as a way to access your Medicare information or even steal your money.
A company commits genetic testing fraud when it bills Medicare for a test or screening that wasn’t medically necessary or ordered by the beneficiary’s doctor. So, how does fraud like this happen? The Better Business Bureau has been seeing it pop up across the country. Companies advertise “free” DNA tests and set up booths or tables in grocery store parking lots, AARP groups or senior living facilities. Seniors are generally the targets of scams like these, so the companies advertise tests that screen for cancer or dementia. They’ll swab your cheek, and you fill out your Medicare information and go on your way. Sometimes, people even receive testing kits in the mail with a DIY swab and instructions to fill out their Medicare information and mail it back.
You might be wondering, “How does this benefit a scammer?” When the test gets sent off, the company bills Medicare and pockets the money. However, there are instances where Medicare doesn’t cover DNA tests, and you can find yourself stuck paying for them. The costs of these tests can end up being more than $10,000, which is why it’s so important to only do one that’s medically necessary.
BBB serving the Heart of Texas has the following tips to help consumers avoid genetic testing fraud:
• Work with your doctor. The best way to avoid being scammed is to only do a genetic test your doctor has ordered. They will know if you need the test and can help you determine if it is covered by Medicare.
• Keep your information safe. Do not give your personal or Medicare information out or accept DNA tests at places like community events, local fairs, farmer’s markets, parking lots or other events not directly sanctioned by your doctor.
• Read documents closely. Documents like your Medicare Summary Notice or Explanation of Benefits can tip you off if something is wrong. Words like “gene analysis,” “molecular pathology” or “laboratory” can be red flags of questionable genetic testing.
• Report your concerns. If you or an elderly relative received a cheek swab or screening that was not ordered by your regular doctor, report your concerns about billing errors or fraud to your local Senior Medicare Patrol and to Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker. Not sure how to locate your Senior Medicare Patrol? You can find them, and more information, at SMPResource.com.
For more, visit bbb.org.
Emily Gaines is the regional director for the Bryan-College Station office of Better Business Bureau.