Last week the Minister for Health Mary Harney told the Seanad that there were 10,000 fewer over 70s in the population than the number of those which had the medical card. This means that doctors are being paid millions for patients who are dead.
The HSE says it carries out monthly checks of all deaths registered to ensure patients who have died are deleted from its database of medical card holders.
A doctor speaking on Liveline during the week blamed bureaucratic incompetence and an inefficient HSE IT system for the shambles.
Whatever the reason, we can be sure of one thing – a massive fraud is being perpetrated on the taxpayer by somebody. This scandal has been going on since 2001 and apparently nobody possesses the intelligence or will to resolve the matter.
Last year it was conservatively estimated that doctors owed the State €1.8 million in overpayments but for some inexplicible reason the HSE seem unable to force doctors to hand back the money.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the situationat the time, the Comptroller and Auditor General advised that breaths should not be held by those waiting for repayment from doctors.
Keeping in mind what the above doctor said about inefficient IT systems here’s what Dr. Ronan Boland, Vice Chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GPs Committee had to say on Morning Ireland in March 2007.
“New IT systems have been put in place, so for the first time in the last 12 months, doctors like myself or my staff can go online and see in real time whether somebody is eligible for a service but that’s only in the last 12 months approximately.”
So, if new IT systems were put in place over two years ago why are doctors still been paid for 10,000 dead patients and more importantly, why are doctors who, according to Dr. Boland can see in real time who is eligible, accepting such payments?