May 13th, 2017

The Benelux countries tackle cross-border fraud in the healthcare sector

An EHFCN publication estimates the volume of fraud in Europe at millions of euros

Brussels, 12-05-2017| The Belgian Minister of Public Health, Maggie De Block, the Dutch State Secretary for Health, Martin van Rijn, and the Luxemburg Minister of Public Health, Lydia Mutsch (LU), have undertaken in a Declaration of Intent to work together to prevent and tackle cross-border healthcare fraud. The aim is to offer citizens maximum protection against risks such as those of care providers already found guilty in one country, but who continue their illegal activities across the border. Ministers are also aiming to minimise the damage inflicted by such fraud on health budgets, so that the money saved can be invested more productively in healthcare for patients. A recent study by the EHFCN (European Healthcare Fraud and Corruption Network) reveals that healthcare fraud in Europe amounts to millions of euros. This Benelux declaration was signed by the countries’ high representatives at a kick-off meeting at the Benelux General Secretariat in Brussels.

Maggie De Block, the Belgian Minister of Public Health: ‘Healthcare is being financed through contributions of the citizen. That is why we owe it to the citizens to invest that money in high-quality and accessible healthcare. Waste, abuse, fraud and corruption do not fit into this picture. That is why we tackle these issues in our policy on a national level. Unfortunately, fraud and corruption do not stop at national borders. On the contrary, fraudsters increasingly cross borders to defraud and transgress those limits. Therefore there is only one answer, and that is ‘international cooperation’.

Martin van Rijn, the Dutch State Secretary for Health: ‘Fraud and improper use in healthcare are not acceptable and should be dealt with most severely. Both attack the sustainability and solidarity of our healthcare systems. Therefore it is paramount for Benelux countries to tackle the cross-border fraud in healthcare together’.  

Lydia Mutsch, the Luxembourg Minister of Health, stated that: ‘the Declaration of Intent signed today between the Benelux Member States is a strong signal expressing the determination of the signatories to prevent and tackle cross-border healthcare fraud’. 

Fraud amounting to several million euros

The EHFCN published a book on the nature and scale of this fraud, and on corruption and waste in the healthcare sector in 9 European countries. The healthcare systems and risks of fraud in these countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Lithuania) were examined closely. The conclusion drawn is that most cases of fraud involve invoices for care never provided, or for too high a sum, followed by cases relating to public procurement fraud in the healthcare sector. Although the book states that it is difficult to put an overall figure on the real scale of this fraud, there are indications that it amounts to several million euros. 11.5 million euros, for example, were recovered in Belgium just for 2015, and 18.7 million euros in the Netherlands in 2014. In some other countries, the amounts involved are even higher.

The publication also concludes that it is vital to establish multi-disciplinary cooperation between the various countries.

René Jansen, President of EHFCN: ‘The fight against fraud, corruption and waste is a major contribution to the financial sustainability of our healthcare systems and a contribution to the citizens’ basic trust in the integrity of healthcare’.

The Benelux addresses prevention  

By signing this declaration of intent, the three countries undertake to avert risks of healthcare fraud by cooperating more closely and carrying out a targeted investigation. It is particularly important to tackle fraud committed by care providers already found guilty of offences, misuse of the European Health Insurance Card, and to clamp down on fraud relating to the financial flows between the Benelux countries.

The three countries will be setting up a working group of representatives from the departments and stakeholders concerned. Experts will share information and good practices on tackling healthcare fraud, and will carry out a targeted investigation to map the various forms of fraud. Cooperation between these countries will also be stepped up by making administrative procedures more transparent. Finally, an information system will be established between the competent authorities. All this will be set out in an overall action plan.

Thomas Antoine, Benelux Secretary General: ‘It is important for the Benelux countries to have a common approach, as the fraudsters often cross the border to avoid particular national legal systems or to take advantage of certain inefficiencies, thus evading inspections and checks. Our shared objective is to obtain tangible results for the authorities and practitioners involved, as well as for all patients in Europe’.          

Pioneers in Europe

By taking this step, the three Benelux countries are once again playing a pioneering role in Europe, and are launching, in close cooperation, an attack on healthcare fraud, in the interest of their citizens. The European Commission will be informed of the findings of their research.

 

Image: Jo de Cock; Pedro Facon; Wampie Libon; Paul Schmit.

 

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