Medicare in the U.S. has a major problem with fraudulent claims. In 2010 the federal government recovered $4 billion (that’s billion with a b) from physicians, pharmacists and other suppliers. Estimates of overall fraud run as high as $60 billion annually or 10% of disbursements.
The Department of Health and Human Services says that for every $1 they invest in collections, they recover $1.55. With numbers like that, they’ve decided to privatize the collection process by farming it out to contractors on commission. Physicians are being warned to expect a flurry of additional audits.
In Canada, we have no problem at all, relatively speaking. Consider the situation in Alberta. Merwan Saher, the Auditor General, has long fretted over the potential for fraudulent physician claims. Alberta Health and Wellness disburses $2.2 billion every year and the AG seems to reason that given the sheer size of the amount, there must be lots of cheating. In 2009 he established a 20-person team of auditors, consultants and data analysts and armed them with $20,000 worth of software. In the two years since, they’ve found 622 false claims for a total of only $1.8 million of which $1.4 million has been recovered.
The system did not, apparently, finger Calgary’s Dr. John van Olm who, in 2006 and 2007 alone, reported seeing an average of 187 patients a day, some of whom were dead. The case came to light when two patients recently complained to the College of Physicians and Surgeons that Dr. Olm had tried to borrow money from them. The college investigated and suspended his license for three months.
Mr. Saher, for his part, says his office will investigate the audit team to determine if they knew of the abuses. Health and Human service says it has no claims against Dr. Olm at present.