Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How can you protect yourself from Medicare fraud?

Just reviewing your Medicare statement can qualify you for superhero status. See more staying healthy pictures.

Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America -- the most famous superheroes are often depicted as young men or women. But if you thought membership in the AARP disqualified you from superhero status, think again. The U.S. government needs you, senior citizens. You're being called up to the front lines in the battle against Medicare fraud.

Sure, Medicare fraud may not be as flashy an enemy as The Joker or Lex Luthor, but it's no less evil or insidious. Unchecked, Medicare fraud costs the United States upwards of $60 billion each year (the exact number is unknown; $60 billion is considered a conservative estimate) [sources: Allen; Silberner]. This loss hurts everyone because it raises the cost of health care coverage across the board. That means there are a lot of damsels in distress and people in a pickle out there that need help.

The Obama administration has made fighting Medicare fraud a top priority. The Affordable Care Act includes significant funding for FBI agents and prosecutors to wage war on these criminals. The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services are collaborating on Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Teams (HEAT), and in July 2010, the departments announced a major win -- they'd made arrests in a Medicare scam that totaled more than $251 million [source: Associated Press].

While the government works to find and prosecute Medicare criminals, senior citizens are making their way to the combat zone. They are, after all, the ones with Medicare numbers that could be stolen and the ones receiving services that could be reported incorrectly. So put on your superhero suit, and we'll explain what to be on the lookout for and what to do when you suspect something's wrong.

More to Explore