A CBS News investigation uncovered a massive Medicare scam where recruiters entice seniors to submit a DNA sample for a “free” genetic cancer risk test. Many never receive the results from these companies but their Medicare accounts are billed for thousands of dollars.
In part two of this investigation, CBS News’ Jim Axelrod looks at the doctors and laboratories these recruiters are partnering with to bill Medicare. According to government estimates, they are potentially siphoning hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from the program.
CBS News went undercover to find out how the process works. It starts with a recruiter who convinces seniors to hand over a saliva sample and their Medicare cards. One recruiter said she makes $200 per senior and that others are pulling in more than $10,000 a month. She also said the bill to Medicare for the testing can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000.
After a recruiter has gotten a saliva sample and Medicare card from someone, Medicare pays the lab processing the swab – as long as a doctor has signed a test order. So recruiters partner with willing labs and doctors who certify the tests are medically necessary.
“We are essentially the conduits that are basically flowing people into the labs,” the recruiter we spoke with said.
Bob Thomas is a former federal prosecutor who now represents whistleblowers in ongoing healthcare fraud cases. He says scammers are luring in labs with a promise to triple their revenue.
“Once they’ve secured the saliva sample and the Medicare card, they shop it around to labs,” he said. “The biggest problem here is kickbacks, because the sales force is going out there to the lab saying ‘Hey, I’ll get you more business, but you gotta cut me in on it.’ That’s not the way medicine should work.”