PROVIDENCE, Fla. -- Lola Shelton, 84, uses a walker to get around. When she could no longer adjust the height on the used one she purchased for $50, her healthcare provider recommended she get a new walker.
"She said I can get a new one and she said your insurance will buy you a new one," said Shelton.
On March 29th the new walker was delivered to her door. Except for the wider seat and a support brace in the center, it looked exactly like her $50 walker. The price was the eye opener.
"I was very surprised I didn't have any idea it would be that much," she said.
Carroll Pitmon, Shelton's son in law was stunned.
"We had priced these before she got this one and the highest price we found was $199 for the cadillac model, " said Pitmon.
Pitmon and Shelton are upset because Medicare is being billed $808 for the new walker.
This is the breakdown: $680 for the walker and $128 for the seat which is attached; a total of $808.
"I don't want to give $800 for something you can buy for $100," said Shelton.
According to Medicare spokesperson Lee Millman, Medicare does not have the authority to control the price that Durable medical Equipment suppliers or any other providers charge.
Medicare's payment is limited to the lower of the actual charge for the equipment or the fee established by law, Millman said.
We did comparison shopping on the internet for a similar walker and the most expensive walker we could find was $250, not $808.
"It floored me," said Pitmon, "my god are these people real what could we do about it, I mean it is a government entity."
Jacksonville Congressman Ander Crenshaw is trying to do something about it. Crenshaw is looking into waste in Medicare.
Responding the the Shelton case Crenshaw said by email:
"The federal government needs to make sure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely on all fronts, including medical equipment. All agencies need to go the extra mile to ensure needs are met in a cost-effective manner"
His office would like to hear from Lola Shelton and her family.
"She would have told them to take it back when they delivered it if she knew how much it costs," said Pitmon.
Medicare spokesperson Lee Millman said her office is investigating durable equipment billings nationwide. Millman said there are several cases of fraud in South Florida.
Millman said Shelton's case could be a billing error or a systemic problem, they will review it.
The medical equipment company has yet to explain the billing.
First for you, if you receive a medicare summary for charges that seem unusually high, report it to Medicare immediately.