Watch Those Extra Fees For Medicare Patients

The U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) warns physicians who charge Medicare beneficiaries extra money for special services to make sure Medicare-covered benefits aren’t included. Physicians who charge for Medicare-covered benefits risk substantial penalties, including possible exclusion from federal health care programs. 

An OIG alert (PDF) cited case in which a Minneapolis internist asked patients to sign a yearly contract and pay an annual fee of $600 for services not covered by Medicare, such as “coordination of care with other providers” and extra time spent on patient care. The inspector general’s office alleged that many of the services were in fact covered by Medicare. The internist agreed to pay $53,400 in civil fines and to stop offering the contracts.

While it is legal to charge Medicare beneficiaries extra for noncovered services, in practice it may not be so easy to come up with a list of things to charge extra for, experts warn.

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