- The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General has alerted the public about a fraud scheme in which scammers offer genetic testing to try to obtain personal information from Medicare recipients.
- The scam is targeting Medicare beneficiaries through telemarketing calls, booths at public events, health fairs and door-to-door visits.
- On genetic testing, a Mayo Clinic study found 5% to 10% of all colorectal and breast cancer cases are linked to hereditary causes discovered through genetic testing.
Genetic testing can help determine a person’s chance of developing an inherited disorder. The test may be performed on a blood sample or a swab sample from the inside of the cheek.
In the scam identified by the OIG, Medicare beneficiaries are being offered cheek swabs for genetic testing via kits in exchange for personal or Medicare information. The information has been used for identify theft or fraudulent billing purposes, OIG said.
The agency recommends the public refuse to accept delivery on any genetic testing kit that comes in the mail unless it was ordered by a trusted physician. Physicians should approve any requests for genetic testing, according to HHS.
Medicare numbers and information should not be provided to anyone other than the office of an individual’s own physician. Anyone who suspects Medicare fraud is advised to contact the HHS OIG hotline.
Separately, a Mayo Clinic review of the most common hereditary conditions has found that 5% to 10% of all colorectal and breast cancer cases are linked to hereditary causes.
High-risk hereditary predisposition syndromes have been associated with a markedly increased lifetime risk of cancer, sometimes as high as 100%, according to Niloy Jewel Samadder, a gastroenterologist in clinical genomics at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus.
Samadder, lead author of a study of the topic published in June in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, said genetic testing is critical for early detection of cancer risks and decisions on surveillance and treatments.
The study recommends that patients with no personal history of cancer but with a family history of early onset of breast, ovarian, endometrial or colorectal cancer before age 60 should be referred for genetic testing.
Patients also should be referred whose family histories include clustering of multiple cancers in two or three successive generations and the presence of certain rare tumor types, including ureteral cancers and diffuse gastric cancer, the Mayo research suggests.
The most common hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, a condition called Lynch syndrome, represents 2% to 4% of all abnormal colorectal cell growths. Patients with Lynch syndrome have a higher risk of developing colorectal or endometrial cancer and are also predisposed to other cancers, and should undergo a colonoscopy every one to two years, in addition to screening for gastric, gynecological and urinary tract malignancies, the hospital said.