Meet our writers

 







Money May 2018

Dollar Sense

Potpourri: Stuff You Should Know to Protect Your Money and Benefits from Scams, Pitfalls and Unexpected Expenses

By Teresa Ambord

He robbed them of the ability to live normal lives, and bilked Medicare out of nearly a hundred million dollars. The employees shared in the proceeds of theft in the form of bonuses for keeping quiet, which allowed him to keep up the fraud for years.

* * * * *

According to a website called Clark.com you may still be able to get a bereavement fare at one of these airlines: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa and WestJet.

Robbing Medicare: A Tale of Hospice Fraud

It’s no wonder the future of Medicare is often questioned. Thieves see it as a deep pocket, ripe for the picking. And many of those thieves are highly placed individuals such as doctors and other healthcare professionals. Not even hospice care is safe.

Hospice is meant to facilitate a peaceful ending to an individual’s life, once a doctor determines that he or she has a life-limiting condition. Generally, when a person enters hospice care, they aren’t expected to live beyond several more months, though some beat the odds. Professionals in hospice care describe it as treating the person, not the disease, and seeking to enhance the quality of the patient’s remaining life. It takes special people to provide hospice care. But then there are those who see it as a pot of gold to be tapped.

The CNBC program “American Greed” recently profiled Seth Gillman, a king of greed, who ran a hospice care center called Passages in Illinois. That is, until he went to prison for fraud.

The per-day fee that Medicare paid Passages was good, but with a little sleight of hand and falsified documents, Gillman was able to quadruple the fees by claiming most of his patients required a higher level of care. Many of the patients in his hospice center weren’t even seriously ill, but they believed they were due to Gillman’s web of deceit.

He robbed them of the ability to live normal lives, and bilked Medicare out of nearly a hundred million dollars. The employees shared in the proceeds of theft in the form of bonuses for keeping quiet, which allowed him to keep up the fraud for years.

Seth Gillman was caught when a suspicious nurse turned him into the authorities (that nurse opened her own legitimate hospice care center). An audit revealed that before he was done, Gillman’s greed cost Medicare $95 million, robbing Medicare recipients of needed services.

If you or your loved one is put in hospice and you question that decision, get another opinion. One thing is certain, when a fraud such as this one proves successful, it will be repeated. If you suspect Medicare fraud, through a hospice program, a doctor or hospital, or through someone who calls you on the phone offering you free services and products (such as neck and knee braces), don’t participate. Report your suspicions to Medicare.gov, to help protect Medicare funds for your future.

 

Bereavement Fare: When You Need to Travel for a Loved One’s Funeral

If you’ve ever lost a loved one and had to make flight arrangements in a hurry, the last thing you need in a time of grief is financial pressure. Booking a flight on short notice is generally not going to be cheap. But, according to a website called Clark.com you may still be able to get a bereavement fare at one of these airlines: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa and WestJet.

Certain restrictions usually apply, but these, and possibly a few other carriers may be willing to help you out. Depending on how you are related to the deceased, you’ll need to find out how each airline defines “immediate family.” For example, some airlines may not consider the niece or nephew, aunt or uncle of the deceased immediate family.

Keep in mind, while the fares may be flexible, they may not be the cheapest option, so do some checking before you buy a ticket. Clark.com recommends that, before you book, have the following information on hand.

  • The name of the deceased.
  • Your relationship to him or her.
  • Contact information for the funeral home, hospital or hospice.
  • The name of the attending doctor, if applicable.

Here’s contact information for the airlines listed above:

Air Canada: Bereavement fares are for one-way flights, within 10 days of the death of an immediate family member. Call Air Canada Reservations at 1-888-247-2262.

Alaska Airlines: Offers a 10% discount off the lowest priced fare available within seven days of travel. Must be a member of the Alaska Airline’s Free Mileage program for a bereavement fare. You must book directly by calling the reservations and customer service department at 1-800-252-7522.

Delta: Bereavement fares are available for travel within seven days of the death or imminent death of an immediate family member. Call Delta Reservations at 1-800-221-1212 for domestic travel or 1-800-241-4141 for international travel.

Lufthansa: Very little information is available, so contact Lufthansa’s reservations office at 800-645-3880 for further details.

WestJet: Bereavement fares are available for travel within 14 days of the death or imminent death of an immediate family member. You must book directly by calling 1-888-937-8538 (1-888-WESTJET).

Or you may want to forget about the bereavement fare. Don’t book a flight until you’ve checked the alternatives. Again, a bereavement fair may not be the best deal. Check to see if you might do better by using your frequent flyer miles, even if you have pay a fee for short notice. Also check Hotwire.com and Priceline.com for last-minute deals. Or consider a different airport that may be only another hour away. The savings might be worth it.

 

Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa