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Government must act on Medicare fraud.



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Government Must Act On Medicare Fraud Jenny Macklin - Shadow Minister for Health

Media Statement - 4 October 2000

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Shadow Health Minister, Ms Jenny Macklin, today called for urgent action by the Commonwealth on allegations of serious fraud against Medicare in Western Australian hospitals.

"Alarming information has been revealed by accountants Ernst and Young in two audits of Trust funds controlled by doctors at the King Edward Memorial Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth," Ms Macklin said.

"The audits found evidence that doctors had double dipped by charging Medicare for the treatment of public patients while being paid a salary by the hospital for treating the same patients. Bulk billing of public hospital patients is illegal.

"Legal advice from lawyers, Freehill, Hollingdale and Page, has highlighted the legal gravity of the practices going on within the hospitals and the potential breach of the Health Insurance Act and the Commonwealth Crimes Act.

"The Western Australian Government has been very slow to act on these allegations and is resisting the establishment of a broadly based inquiry. The Health Minister, Dr Wooldridge, should act immediately to determine the extent of fraud on Medicare.

"In the House today, the Minister washed his hands of any responsibility. However, Dr Wooldridge is directly responsible for Medicare and it appears that millions of dollars of Commonwealth funds may be incorrectly claimed by doctors through this Trust fund rort.

"The Audit has also revealed that some of the Trust accounts may be being operated in order to avoid Commonwealth tax and, in some cases, to defraud the hospitals concerned, which are partly funded by the Commonwealth.

"A lesson that Dr Wooldridge should have learnt from the MRI scan scam is that investigations into medical fraud must be started promptly with the best legal advice if they are to succeed. Dr Wooldridge should immediately ensure that a full and thorough investigation is undertaken into the evidence turned up by the hospital audit," Ms Macklin said.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.