Vermont woman warns of insurance swindle

BARTON, Vt. (WCAX) On Feb. 19, a big box arrived on Marty Shatney's doorstep in Barton. Normally, people are excited to receive packages. But not this one.

"I was pissed!" Shatney said. "I was livid! I was so angry. If I could have reached through the phone and beaten somebody, I would have!"

Shatney isn't pulling her punches when she talks about the box of medical braces.

"Oh, I was just so mad," she said.

It held a back brace, two knee braces, two foot braces, two suspension sleeves and: "Gee, a sling. This is a sling," Shatney said.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Do you need a sling?
Martie Shatney: No, I've got plenty of them.

All of it unneeded, unprescribed and unwanted. Shatney says she told the callers from "Back Braces Plus Inc" so.

"I said, 'What part of no don't you people understand? The N or the O?' Click," she said.

But still, the company managed to swindle Medicare and her supplemental insurance.

"Medicare has actually billed over $1,300 for this," Shatney said.

For thousands of dollars in products she didn't authorize. Shatney says she even called Medicare to warn them.

"And I still got the box," she said. "This raises our insurance rates and we struggle just to pay our copays when we go to the doctors. We struggle to pay our copays when we go to pick up our medications... And then when I see things like this, you're darn tootin' I get irate!"

We found out this kind of fraud is on the rise.

Charity Clark with the Vermont attorney general's office says last year, the Consumer Assistance Program got about 24 reports of medical equipment scams like this.

"Neck braces, back braces hearing aids-- those kinds of medical devices," Clark said.

Two and a half months into this year, they're already at 29.

Cat Viglienzoni: Why this kind of fraud?
Charity Clark: Well, we like to say that scammers do what works. So this must be working. They're getting money.

But as far as being able to hunt down the companies, that's up to the U.S inspector general.

"There's a limited amount of what we can do," Clark said.

Vermont has a law about unsolicited merchandise like what Shatney got. You can keep it. If the company wants it back, they have 20 days to come get it. Back Braces Plus' brochures claim they're based in Florida and promise that "as easy as 1-2-3" they would take the braces back.

Cat Viglienzoni: What happened when you called that number?
Martie Shatney: (Laughs) I was on hold for two hours and 45 minutes.
Cat Viglienzoni: Did you ever get through?
Martie Shatney: No. Leave a message.

Shatney wants other people to speak up in the hopes that Congress will crackdown.

"The more people who report it, maybe something will get done," she said.

So what's next for all of these products? Shatney says the AG's office told her whether she wants them or not, they're hers. She says she might donate them.