This story also ran on NPR. This story can be republished for free (details).

Dean Ernest had been living in a nursing home about a year when his son, John, got a call last winter asking if his father was experiencing back pain and would like a free orthotic brace.

The caller said he was with Medicare. John Ernest didn’t believe him, said “no” to the brace and hung up. He didn’t give out his father’s Medicare number.

And yet, not just one, but 13 braces arrived soon afterward at Ernest’s house in central Pennsylvania.

Medicare, the federal taxpayer-supported health care insurance program for older Americans, had paid over $4,000 for 10 of the braces: a back brace, two knee braces, two arm

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