Saturday, May 31, 2014

Did someone collect $ off my mother?

I remember when my mother died just over three years ago, my brother and I took it on ourselves to contact as many entities as we could to inform them of her death.

Since our mother had serious health ailments and her medical expenses were covered by Medicaid and Medicare (the last decade of her life, she was kept alive by three-times-a-week kidney dialysis treatments), that meant calls to federal and state entities.

WHO TOLD US it would be unwise to immediately cut off any accounts related to her. After all, she received medical treatments literally up until the day she died.

There were bound to be some medical bills not yet submitted that would have to be covered. Unless my brother and I were prepared to pay for those treatments (which I seem to recall had a price tag of about $1,000 per each three-hour treatment, plus the unexpected costs).

For several months thereafter, a card would come every month in the mail addressed to my mother – the card that gave her account numbers for Medicaid and Medicare and showed she was covered.

Even though our mother was gone. She remained “alive” in the system for technical purposes.

I HADN’T THOUGHT much about it in recent months. At least not until this week, when I learned of the Illinois auditor general’s office’s review of the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services.

Each state agency and program gets audited every two years. This time, they found that some 8,232 people were still on Medicaid rolls – even though they were deceased.

In some cases, people who were already dead were signed up for benefits through a state managed care program.

The audit found 561 cases of dead people for whom benefits totaling $7 million were paid out.

THE AUDITOR DID its study by comparing the Medicaid rolls as of last June to the list of Public Health death records dating back to 1970.

In one case, they found someone who died in 1989, but received $29,860 in benefits for hospital, lab and dental bills incurred between 2005 and October of last year.

To the state’s benefit, they’re now contacting the entities that were paid the money, and they say some $11 million will be repaid by the end of this year – with about two-thirds of that money already repaid.

Yet the whole thing does make me wonder.

NOW AS FAR as I know, nobody made any money off my dead mother that they weren’t entitled to for the medical care she received during her lifetime.

Although the whole process and how it could linger on for so long gives me reason for concern. To this day, there are bits of mail that come addressed to my mother, including the one that showed up Friday from the Globe Life and Accident Insurance Co. that offers her a chance to buy a $50,000 life insurance policy for as little as $2.17 a month.

Most of them are like that; junk mail solicitations that I suspect she would have laughed at before throwing away, if she were still here with us.

But even by scam standards, trying to make some money off the rolls of the dead is just a bit too garish to contemplate.

IT WAS HARD enough to have to watch my mother at the end, particularly when her eyesight got worse, she had problems walking (my brother and I still have the walker she used occasionally).

The idea that I’d have to relive those memories of her physical deterioration because someone might still be getting a few bucks off of it is just too much to bear.

And even if it turns out (as I suspect) that my mother isn’t among the people whose records got searched by the auditor general’s office, it must come as a blow to those people whose loved ones are on the “list,” so to speak.

We ought to just let them Rest In Peace, even on future Election Days when some might try to rely on their ballots for political victory.


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