DME focus of anti-fraud initiative

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a regulation in January aimed at weeding out unscrupulous suppliers of durable medical equipment (DME) to Medicare beneficiaries. Suppliers are now required to obtain surety bonds of at least $50,000 on equipment furnished after Jan. 1, 1998, and they're banned from telemarketing. Distributors must have a physical office and listed phone number and must re-enroll in Medicare every three years. The targeting of DME suppliers is the latest in a series of ongoing efforts to protect Medicare from fraud and abuse as a part of HHS' five-state Operation Restore Trust initiative, launched three years ago. A survey conducted last year by the Inspector General revealed that enrollment in Medicare by DME suppliers was too easy, opening vulnerability to fraud and abuse. Medicare spent about $6 billion on DME last year.