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Genetic Counselors: Their Key Role in Shutting Down Medicare Fraud

by Joy Larsen Haidle MS, LGC and Trish Brown, MS, CGC

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They’re at it again--genetic testing fraud targeting Medicare Beneficiaries continues to make headlines and highlights the ever-important role of the genetic counselor in stopping this fraud. In September 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the results of an investigation of more than 86 defendants who defrauded Medicare out of $4.5 billion. The DOJ alleges that fraudulent companies paid doctors and nurse practitioners to inappropriately order durable medical equipment, pain medications or genetic testing for patients they had never met, or only had a brief phone call with. This comes just one year after the DOJ charged 35 defendants for fraudulently billing Medicare $2.1 billion for unnecessary cancer genetic testing and telemedicine services in a takedown dubbed “Operation Double Helix.” The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) spoke out after this first scandal, highlighting the fact that improved access to genetic counselors could have saved the government billions in that scam, and we believe the same of this most recent fraud as well as none of the entities or individuals involved were part of what genetic counselors would consider reputable genetic services companies – these were pure fraudsters who were fairly easily identified.

Genetic Counseling is a Career for All – An Interview with Benjamin Helm

by Jay Flanagan, MS, CGC

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A part of NSGC’s “Genetic Variation” blog series that aims to give a voice to diverse members of the genetic counseling community. Genetic variation refers to diversity in gene frequencies and can also relate to differences between individuals or populations.

In 2017, certified genetic counselor Jay Flanagan wrote a blog about being a male genetic counselor, in hopes that sharing his experience would inspire others who are curious about the career to explore it more.  At the time, just five percent of all genetic counselors were men—a stat that remains largely unchanged in 2021. The blog remains one of the most popular on NSGC’s site, and four years later, Jay still receives emails with questions or stories about how this blog helped someone in their journey to becoming a genetic counselor. This blog picks up where Jay’s last blog ended and features a interview with Benjamin Helm, another certified genetic counselor.

“I Am A Genetic Counselor”: Celebrating Genetic Counselors of Different Backgrounds

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To celebrate the fourth annual Genetic Counselor Awareness Day on Nov. 12, we featured 12 stories of aspiring genetic counselors and genetic counselors from different backgrounds who embody the many facets of the profession in our annual “I am a Genetic Counselor” series on social media. Learn more about their work and what made them choose genetic counseling as a career.

Prostate Cancer: Do I need genetic testing?

by Joy Larsen Haidle, MS, LGC

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Joy Larsen Haidle, MS, LGC, is a past-president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors and a genetic counselor at the North Memorial Health Cancer Center in Minneapolis.

When Al Roker announced his prostate cancer diagnosis, he shared his desire to use his platform to educate others, presenting an ideal time to continue the conversation.  Prostate cancer is common for men--1 in 9 will develop prostate cancer over their lifetime.  However, those odds increase to roughly 1 in 7 for African American men. Many prostate cancers are slow growing and lead to a good prognosis, however, some prostate cancers are more aggressive and finding those cancers early becomes important to help those men do well too.