Part 10. Taxpayers Are Fed Up – And Want Something Done!
We conducted a survey recently to find out just how strongly Canadians feel about the matter of healthcare fraud, and some of the responses might just surprise you. Or not.
90% of those surveyed think that healthcare fraud is a serious concern and needs to be addressed, that fraud of tax money is not a victimless crime.
And they’re right. Losing billions of dollars each year to healthcare fraud is no light matter particularly when, as the Globe and Mail reported in January of this year, “provincial ER waiting times set a record of longest in history” and “even Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario recently warned families about waiting times to treat children in the emergency department”. The article goes on to say that “fully half of our hospitals were operating at or above 100 percent capacity”. Think of how much this dilemma would be eased for us if we were to clamp down on the theft of our healthcare dollars.
73% feel that law enforcement agencies should be responsible for handling cases of suspected healthcare fraud; only 8% would trust this to the Colleges.
And why would anyone think the Colleges are willing to or even capable of appropriately responding to practitioner fraud? The provincial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons seem dedicated to protecting doctors, not the public. In May of this year, the Toronto Star identified 159 disciplined doctors who held licenses to practice in both Canada and the US and found that fully 90% of these doctors’ public profiles did not report sanctions taken against them for offenses including incompetence, improper prescribing, sexual misconduct and fraud. Furthermore, unlike the U.S., there is no Canadian national database from which you can access licensing and disciplinary action taken on doctors. While the public push for greater transparency of College disciplinary actions has effected some minor reforms in some provinces, some of the provincial colleges remain ultra-secretive about their doings.
An overwhelming 99% think that a doctor or other health practitioner convicted of fraud should go to jail like any other criminal, have their license suspended or revoked, be required to make full restitution, or some combination of the foregoing. Less than one percent thought that just giving back the money and carrying on like nothing had happened is appropriate.
We think that jail time is entirely appropriate for doctors who have committed crimes. Why should they get a pass when others (those not holding medical licenses) have earned themselves prison time for fraud and thefts of lesser amounts?
On the subject of taxpayers funding doctors’ legal defenses, only 12% of survey respondents agree that we should pay their legal bills; 88% feel doctors should pay their own legal bills just like everyone else.
Taxpayers having to fund the protection of doctors accused of wrongdoing – whether medical, civil, or criminal – is outrageous. What other group expects the public to pay their legal bills? Let’s take the hundreds of millions of dollars that we pay to the Canadian Medical Protective Association and put it into hospital facilities instead. And let the doctors buy their own insurance and pay their own legal fees.
When asked about federal involvement in combatting healthcare fraud, the average rating was 7/10 in importance.
One survey respondent sums up the issue nicely:
Healthcare is a Provincial issue. However, justice and criminal code matters are Federal, thus the Federal Government MUST take part.
Also, I do not believe that anything other than the criminal justice system is adequate as professional associations and administrative systems create a two-tier justice system where professionals and ‘white collar’ criminals are treated differently. This allows professionals to operate under a different set of standards and, in my opinion, truly does bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
Finally, as I have actually, personally, investigated instances of institutional health care fraud, as a taxpayer I am disgusted that widespread fraud goes unpunished – even as an administrative or professional association punishment – and simply results in policy changes.
Are there any Ministries out there listening to people’s concerns?