Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Medical Fraud Scam Unveiled

You’ve probably already heard about the recent college admissions scandal that rocked U.S. higher education. But last week, 24 people also were arrested in connection with another scandal that was far more lucrative (though decidedly less glamorous): medical braces.

stacks of paper

Lots of documents are being interpreted as part of this investigation. Credit: Shutterstock/Richard Peterson

Here’s what happened: call centers in Latin America and the Philippines called up hundreds of thousands of U.S. seniors on Medicare and convinced them that they needed “free,” unnecessary orthopedic braces. The call centers then bribed telemedicine companies, who then bribed doctors to write phony prescriptions for back, shoulder, wrist, and knee braces. In the final step, the foreign call centers then billed Medicare for the bogus braces and kept about $300 per brace in profit. The money was laundered through an offshore account and used to by yachts, homes, and luxury cars.

The operation scammed a total of about $1.2 million from the Medicare system. In addition, there are concerns that seniors’ personal information could have been taken and sold for illegal purposes. Federal prosecutors have charged a ring of 24 people–including owners of several medical equipment companies, telemedicine companies, and licensed doctors–with health care fraud. They first learned about the scam last summer, as seniors began calling in complaints to the Medicare fraud hotline. The investigation, which was brought by the FBI, the IRS, and seventeen attorney’s offices, is continuing.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to learn how the Medicare program is funded. When someone commits fraud against Medicare, whose money is really being stolen?

Israel’s Prime Minister Wins Fourth Term

With the United States already gearing up for the 2020 presidential election, you may not have had time to closely follow Israel’s political scene. But last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a fourth consecutive term in office. This means that in July of this year, he will become the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. Netanyahu beat out challenger Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White alliance, to win the election. But it was far from a landslide victory. In fact, Gantz’s party won more than a million votes, which is a record for a new party.

Why is this significant? Because the fact that the vote was so divided speaks to a larger division within the country as well. Mr. Netanyahu is expected to be indicted on corruption charges for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. If the indictment is carried out, he will be the first prime minister in Israel to face criminal charges. Mr. Netanyahu’s policies have also brought him a great deal of criticism. For example, just days before the election, he stated that he would annex parts of the West Bank–which is disputed territory – over the objections of Palestine. Here in the United States, Trump praised Netanyahu’s victory and said that the election’s outcome was a good sign for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Dig Deeper Based on what you’ve read and seen in the news, why do you think the Israeli prime minister’s plan to inhabit the West Bank would anger Palestine? Feel free to use Internet resources to help you find an answer.

New Zealand Passes Gun Law

Last week, btw took a look at New Zealand’s response to the March 15 mosque shooting in Christchurch that killed fifty people and injured fifty more. In the wake of that tragedy, New Zealand’s Parliament–led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern–proposed legislation that would ban most military-style, semi-automatic weapons, and assault rifles. On April 10, less than a month after the shooting, the law passed. What’s more, all but one member of Parliament voted in favor of it.

In addition to banning these types of weapons, the new law will also ban parts and ammunition that can convert lower-powered guns to high-powered ones, as well as adding a requirement to register all handguns by the end of the year. It also includes a provision to buy back now-illegal weapons from their current owners. A panel of experts will determine fair prices. The New Zealand government estimates that it will need to buy back about 13,500 privately-owned, military-style firearms from the public.

New Zealand stands in stark contrast to the United States, where improved gun safety laws are often discussed but do not make it through Congress, despite the occurrence of multiple mass shootings in recent years.

Dig Deeper Click here to learn more about the process required to purchase a gun in the United States and fifteen other countries. Choose one of the nations listed and compare it to the United States. Based on what you’ve discovered, do you believe that current gun laws in the United States go far enough? Why or why not?

NASA Prepares for 50th Anniversary of Moon Landing 

Between July 1969 and December 1972, NASA’s Apollo program landed a dozen Americans on the moon. Fifty years after that historic achievement, NASA is commemorating the anniversary with a new logo and a series of remembrances.

The Apollo Fiftieth Anniversary logo was created by NASA graphic artist Matthew Skeins and honors past achievements while also looking ahead to the future. It contains the phrase “APOLLO 50” in white lettering, with an image of the moon drawn in the first “O” and Mars in the second. Beneath “APOLLO” is the phrase “Next Giant Leap.” A white arc moves through the letters of “APOLLO”, representing a view of Earth’s horizon from a spacecraft. The logo borrows elements from the original Apollo logo, which linked drawings of the Earth and moon (updated now to the moon and Mars). It also recognizes those who have sacrificed to make space exploration a reality: three large stars next to the “50” represent the three Apollo 1 astronauts who died in a capsule fire during a launch test in January 1967.

The Apollo program was designed to land humans safely on the moon. Out of twelve missions, six achieved this successfully. Today, the Apollo Command Module Capsules are on display at museums and science centers throughout the United States (as well as one in London, England).

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to find out more about the 1967 Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts. What were their names? What was the cause of the fire?