Investigative journalists are catching on to the widespread, rampant abuse of work comp by unscrupulous “doctors” and scam artists who’ve figured out it’s easy to make bank by cheating employers and taxpayers out of their workers’ comp dollars; and a whole lot less risky than taking on Medicare or Medicaid.
Christina Jewett’s series in Reveal highlights the lowlifes in California who’ve made millions filing fraudulent claims for non-existent medical conditions attributed to both real and imaginary patients. Comparing work comp fraud to Medicare, Jewett cites the relative ease and low risk inherent in cheating workers comp compared to the higher risk, harsh penalties, and Federal investigative muscle confronting would-be Medicare fraudsters.
The list of scams won’t surprise anyone who’s been in workers’ comp; fake diagnoses used to justify procedures that never happened; non-existent medical providers billing for services never delivered to claimants; claimants subjected to surgeries for conditions they never had.
Nauseating indeed, if for no other reason than we’ve seen it all before so many times.
Another “area of opportunity” for profiteers looking to shake the work comp money tree is the air ambulance industry. A recent Nightline story shines a very bright light into the very cloudy world of “life flights;” families bankrupted, insurers bilked, and employers stuck with bills for “life-saving” flights for patients whose lives were not in imminent danger. Last summer, James Laughlin reported there were over five hundred fee disputes between comp payers and air ambulance companies in just one state – Texas.
I applaud Nightline, Jewett and the Center for Investigative Reporting for their diligence. It’s remarkable how real journalists can help focus public attention on what’s really wrong with workers’ comp.
Michael Grabell and Howard Berkes could learn a lot from Nightline and Ms Jewett.