The agency's overzealous efforts to get money from elderly accident victims.
One hot summer evening in 1995, Sumaya Coury was driving her 81-year-old mother, Mollie Coury, and some of her friends back to Los Angeles after a trip to San Diego to play bingo.
Around midnight, Sumaya's Cadillac slammed into the car of a drunk driver who'd parked and passed out in the middle of the five-lane 210 freeway, east of Pasadena.
Mollie's legs were crushed; doctors thought she'd never walk again. But after weeks in hospital, she regained her mobility, and eventually put the accident behind her.
Then, 13 years later, in the fall of 2008, Medicare sent Mollie some staggering news: She owed $66,000 for what the agency said were medical expenses related to the accident.
If she didn't pay within 60 days, the Treasury Department would seize her Social Security checks until the money was repaid.
The reason for the enormous bill?
After the accident, Coury had received about $20,000 from her daughter's insurance policy.
This settlement subjected her to an obscure law called Medicare Secondary Payer Act, created decades ago to prevent Medicare from paying medical expenses that were the responsibility of private insurers or other parties.