Indigenous health service in rorts probe

This article has been republished with permission from The Australian newspaper.

A prominent indigenous health service is among the first to be targeted under a crackdown on Medicare rorts expected to recoup millions of dollars for the Federal Government.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has been sent a brief of evidence in relation to the Murri Medical group, which runs primary care and dental services in south-east Queensland and does extensive outreach work.

The Murri group was first raided by Medicare investigators in 2014 and has expanded its operations since then. It had earlier been visited by Alan Tudge, now Human Services Minister, who declared its “model of success” could be replicated elsewhere.

After a protracted investigation, the case is being finalised after the government used the federal budget to herald an unprecedented crackdown on rorts.

The government has vowed to upgrade its debt recovery powers to generate net savings of $103.8 million, having previously been unable to recoup more than 20 per cent of misused rebates. In future, medical practitioners are likely to be required to offset a portion of legitimate earnings to cover their Medicare debts.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the CDPP had asked for further material on the Murri group case and it would be provided “as a matter of priority”.

“Where people are found to have claimed payments through deliberate fraud, they will be required to pay monies back and may face prosecution,” the spokeswoman said.

“The Department of Health may refer matters to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration of prosecution in accordance with the prosecution policy of the Commonwealth.”

The nature of the allegations remains unclear and the Murri group, which uses buses to transport patients and visit indigenous communities, has not offered any public explanation. It was involved in legal action at the start of the investigation that saw Medicare investigators raid its Caboolture premises a second time.

The government has previously also vowed to investigate inappropriate use of Medicare rebates among after-hours home visit GPs, dentists and sleep and skin clinics. It is also reviewing its systems after the apparent sale of Medicare details on the so-called dark web.

While the government has previously downplayed the need for any security upgrade for Medicare cards, which have only a name and magnetic strip, it has left open the option if proposed by companies bidding for a new payments system.

Sean Parnell, The Australian

 

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