The giving spirit
This holiday season, The Times each day will spotlight a person or couple who give of themselves to help others in the community. Today, meet John Morris, who on behalf of Legacy Link, travels to senior centers and other organizations advising ways the elderly can avoid fraud.
For more information about volunteering for Legacy Link, Area Agency on Aging, call 770-538-2650. For more information, visit the website.
John Morris has 30 years of fighting health care fraud, expertise he has brought to Gainesville over the past year.
"I feel like I got some working knowledge I can share and relate," said the volunteer for the nonprofit Legacy Link, Area Agency on Aging, at 508 Oak St.
Morris serves on behalf of Legacy Link in traveling to senior centers and any other organization that wants to hear him advise on ways to identify potential fraud, he said.
It's an issue close to his heart.
Morris said that 3 to 15 percent of the nation's Medicare budget is fraudulently disbursed each year. "That costs every Medicare recipient roughly $2 per day, so it's a major impact," he said.
His work in the field began after a decade spent as a prosecutor in Gainesville, Fla.
Previously, the Minnesota native served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and earned a law degree at the University of Florida.
Morris directed the Florida Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for 14 years, then served as director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida's special investigation unit.
In 1985, he helped start the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, which comprises public-private groups working to combat health care fraud.
Morris, 71, retired in 2006 and moved to Gainesville to be closer to his children and grandchildren.
But he hasn't lost his zeal for fighting fraud.
After hearing about a major award presented to the Administration on Aging, the federal government overseeing the Senior Medicare Patrol program, he began to see if the could help out locally.
He contacted the state coordinator, who put him in touch with Legacy Link, which serves 13 Northeast Georgia counties, including Hall.
Pat Freeman, the organization's executive director, is thankful for Morris' work.
"John's background is perfect for helping people who have questions about Medicaid and Medicare and prescription insurance," she said.
"He's diligent, he shows up when he says he's going to and he's knowledgeable," she added.
Morris has been with Legacy Link for about a year and on the board of directors since August.
"It's been a good experience so far," he said. "I really like it."
Morris said he works about 10 to 15 hours a month helping out as he can and speaking to local organizations.
One big piece of advice he tells seniors: Keep a record of your appointments and prescriptions and then double-check that information against your benefits summary when it arrives in the mail.
"If you see a billing for a day you weren't (at the doctor's office), then you need to be suspicious," he said.
And doctors who commit fraud usually aren't doing it selectively.
In other words, Morris said, the doctor "is going to do it across the board" to patients in all insurance situations.
As part of health care reform, he added, "there's a lot of money in it to combat fraud, because (the government) realizes it's a major issue — not only fraud, but pure waste and abuse."