Online Fraud Experts Raise Concerns Over Online Health Schemes
As the use of electronic medical record keeping grows, investigators are anticipating an increase in fraudulent online health care schemes, the Nashua Telegraph reports. At a meeting of the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association in Dallas, Texas, last week, association Executive Director William Mahon said, "This has to be on our radar scope when experts are predicting that 80% or 90% of the nation's doctors are going to be writing prescriptions and forwarding claims data from their Palm Pilots in the next few years." With the Internet already the "first medical reference stop" for millions of Americans, agencies including the Federal Trade Commission, the FDA and the Department of Justice have launched numerous investigations into Web sites that make "questionable health claims." Online pharmacies have been "the hotbed" for fraud investigations; the FDA is currently investigating about 60 cases, while the DOJ has filed a dozen cases and participated in 20 more. Experts attending the conference agreed that the very attributes -- "anonymity, speed and lack of geographic boundaries" -- that attract consumers to the Internet also invite fraud. Karen Morrissette, deputy chief of the criminal fraud section at the Justice Department, said, "Transporting health care to the Internet may take it outside the traditional safeguards that have been built into the process, and patients may not be aware of this." She added, "We're assuming that online transactions involving federal and private health programs are going to grow, and fraud will come with that." Mahon said, "When you start thinking about electronic payment of claims in terms of hours or days rather than days and weeks, the potential for fraud losses is pretty chilling." Noting that the current investigations are only "a drop in the bucket," FTC attorney Tom Carter said, "That's why the commission has focused so much effort on educating consumers to be careful and skeptical about claims for 'miracle cures'" (Bowman, Nashua Telegraph, 11/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.