In 2015, Microsoft's CEO Bill Gates predicted that the next global crisis won't be another World War or battle against nations. In his TEDx speech, he revealed that an influenza virus will be the world's greatest fear. This year 2020, his predictions are now happening in the form of COVID 19 or the Novel Coronavirus.
COVID 19 has killed over 3 million people, where thousands of affected patients have been fighting for their last breath.
Due to the coronavirus, the concept of "new normal" has recalibrated living patterns, including yours. For instance, businesses are now adopting the work from home or telecommuting policy; states are now enforcing social distancing to avoid crowded zones; and, people are now wearing masks to promote a hygienic and safe lifestyle.
While new normal is shaping the way we live, the prevalence of medical fraud remains to be a pressing health issue. Despite the global pandemic, medical fraudsters have taken advantage of the weak and innocent lives. Some fraudsters offer sensationalized medical alternatives, and some of them spread fake news online.
As you brace yourself to flatten the curve and to prevent the contamination of the virus, this article will help you to protect against medical fraudsters in the time of coronavirus.
What is Coronavirus?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID 19, Coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, is a virus that causes respiratory tract illnesses, ranging its severity from a common cold to potentially deadly diseases such as Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The higher risk of developing SARS is people aged 65 years and older, the elderly in a nursing home, and people of all ages who have underlying health conditions. Currently, CDC's study reveals that younger adults between 20 and 44 years old are common patients of COVID-19.
The symptoms of COVID-19 appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure, including fever, shortness of breathing, cough, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.
Cases of COVID 19 in the United States
As of this writing, there are approximately 3.8 million confirmed cases of persons with COVID-19, where 260,000 people died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The data suggest that it has surpassed the toll rate of the SARS epidemic that occurred in 2002 and 2003.
In the United States, CDC has confirmed that positive cases are increasing, varying to the 50 different states. Today, almost 1.2 million people have COVID 19, estimating almost 71,000 deaths caused by the virus.
What is Medical Fraud?
Medical Fraud, better known as Health Care Fraud, is the act of swindling health care claims in private and state-sponsored health care programs. Medical fraud schemes may include stealing a patient’s health data, the offering of fake insurance cards, defrauding health information, and selling unapproved over-the-counter drugs.
The common victims of Medical Fraud are the elderly who have been living in a long-term care facility, and persons suffering from severe illness, such as AIDS, pulmonary infection, etc.
Further, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reveals that the health institution loses an estimated $65 billion annually due to medical fraud.
Cases of Medical Fraud during Coronavirus
Despite the horrors brought by the coronavirus pandemic, fraudsters still take advantage to defraud and gain profit by fraudulent schemes. However, the Department of Justice and its law enforcement agencies are still active in investigating and arresting fraudsters.
Here are the following cases of medical fraud during coronavirus:
#1 A Silver Product as COVID cure: a fraud sale according to the Department of Justice
Last April 29, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against defendants Gordon Pedersen of Cedar Hills, Utah, and his companies, My Doctor Suggests LLC and GP Silver, for fraudulently selling and promoting silver products for COVID 10 treatment.
In the civil complaint, the defendants have allegedly disseminated false and misleading claims, promoting silver products as a cure for coronavirus disease. According to the defendants, the silver will go into a human’s bloodstream and will usher out the coronavirus from the body. Defendants also explains that an “Alkaline Structured Silver” will destroy all forms of viruses, which will attach into human cells, “preventing disease totally and completely.”
The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has cooperated with the DOJ to ensure that practices are in-line with safety standards and drug regulation.
A hearing on the government’s request for a preliminary injunction will be on May 12, 2020.
#2 Michigan Man scams selling N-95 Mask, charged with Wire Fraud Scheme
Stevenson, 24, of Muskegon, Michigan, was arrested at his home and charged with wire fraud, in violation of Sec. 1343, Title 18 of the U.S. Code or Fraud by wire, radio television.
In the criminal complaint, Stevenson controlled EM General, a Michigan LLC, created in September 2019. The company started to operate as an e-commerce, selling “Anti-Viral N95” respiratory masks. Because of the availability and the demand for the mask, customers have ordered and paid more than 40 dollars per mask. According to the customers, the EM General’s website appeared to be legitimate since Stevenson created a fictional Chief Executive Officer, in the name of “Mike Thomas.”
The case revealed how four victims paid for, but didn’t receive, N95-compliant masks. Here, EM General made false excuses on the delay of shipment and scarcity of supply. Out of the three customers, the fourth customers paid $400 on March 2, 2020, and received cheaply-made fabric masks, without complying with the N95 standard masks as advertised by EM General.
Stevenson made his initial appearance before the U.S. District Court for Western Michigan and was released on supervised bond. Michigan appears for a preliminary hearing on May 18, 2020.
Is there any treatment for the coronavirus disease?
FDA has announced that there are no vaccines available to cure and treat COVID-19.
The FDA has been working with medical product developers to rapidly-produce effective and safe vaccines.
In other words, COVID-19 products that allegedly claim as a treatment for the coronavirus are fake and fraudulent. FDA has been collaborating with numerous medical organizations, hospitals, and retailers to whistleblow and report any misleading products from the shelves and online.
How do you protect yourself and your family from Medical Fraud in the time of Coronavirus?
There are few tips that Khouri Law suggests in protecting yourself and your family against Medical fraud
1. Be vigilant and aware
Fake news and online products are now circulating in Amazon, eBay, or any other online shopping platforms. These products usually claim to cure COVID-19. However, the FDA suggests that there is no cure yet for the coronavirus.
2. Don't believe on personal testimonials
Personal testimonials are not primary sources. Remember, only the Center for Disease and Control Prevention, World Health Organization, and other authorized health institutions have reliable sources for COVID-19 treatment.
3. Be suspicious on sensationalized treatment
"Miracle cures" and "quick fix" supplements are not FDA-approved. You know that you can't test yourself for coronavirus disease. While COVID-19 has no cure yet, be suspicious of how treatments are made.
4. Get a Medical Fraud Attorney
A medical fraud attorney is an expert in both the medical and legal fields. He is not only dedicated to winning your case, but also, he maintains a relationship with you in all levels of the legal process. That’s why, in these trying times, a medical fraud attorney provides the best legal protection since he is a good negotiator who upholds discretion and diligence, and has proven experience in litigating medical fraud cases.
Bill Gates was right. For the next outbreak, we are not prepared.
For valuable reasons, Coronavirus has taught you the value of global preparedness, underscoring the importance of health issues at the forefront of progress. The virus has made you prepare for embracing the “new normal.” And one part of your preparations is to get yourself protected against medical fraud, most especially in today’s unprecedented events.
Medical fraudsters are now taking advantage of your situation by phishing emails, advertising fake online COVID treatments, billing services not provided, stealing your health data, and many more.
To prevent medical fraud during COVID-19, here are some tips to follow:
1. Be vigilant and aware
2. Don't believe on personal testimonies
3. Be suspicious on sensationalized treatment
4. Get a medical fraud attorney
While there is no cure for COVID-19, you can prevent the contamination of the virus by maintaining social distance, washing your hands regularly, and wearing masks when going outside.