Mysterious medical braces delivered to Tampa Bay seniors, charged to Medicare

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA (WFLA) – Unwanted packages are showing up on doorsteps of Tampa Bay senior citizen’s and Medicare is getting a hefty bill.

It happened to 90-year-old Irene Silver-Stender. It started a year ago, with one phone call.

“They said we are from Medicare,” she said.

But they weren’t and then boxes of medical braces she didn’t order and didn’t want started showing up.

“It was the most frustrating experience I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “Nothing they were sending me was helping. My wrists are fine, my ankles are fine.”

She’s not alone. Medicare is being billed for so many braces that seniors never asked for that the Federal Trade Commission is warning Medicare recipients to not accept medical equipment in the mail unless you know that your doctor ordered it.

Jay Todras, an investigator with Senior Connection Center, says medical brace sales are big business, and taxpayers are ultimately on the hook.

“We’ve been told that for the back braces they can be several hundred dollars and most, and Medicare can be billed several thousand dollars per brace,” he said.

He recommends that you not give your Medicare ID number to anyone and don’t agree to any brace on the phone. If you need a brace, go through your doctor.

Patients like Irene could be hurt, too, he said.

“If Medicare does pay for this, it could potentially hurt her at some point later, if she does legitimately need something,” Todras said.

Irene’s daughter, Karin Silver, called the companies listed on the boxes but was passed along to other companies based across the country… but one box came from right here in Tampa.

She was encouraged because it was local, Bay Medical Supply LLC, on Cross Creek Boulevard, so she called.

“I get a robotic automatic, we’re busy with other customers call, every time I’ve tried to call. I left a phone number, all the information about getting a return label, and you never get anything back.”

Since that didn’t work, Investigative Reporter Shannon Behnken paid the company a visit but found only a receptionist. She promised to have her boss call to address Irene’s unwanted braces, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Meanwhile, if you have a similar problem, report it right away to Medicare. You can also reach out to Senior Connection Center, at 1-800-936-5337 and ask for the Shine program.

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Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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