U.S. federal agents have smashed a worldwide medical care scheme that defrauded U.S. taxpayers of more than $1 billion. The Justice Department said Tuesday 24 people have been charged, including doctors, telemarketers and the heads of companies that provide back, wrist and knee braces.
“This Department of Justice will not tolerate medical professionals and executives who look to line their pockets by cheating our health care programs,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said Tuesday.
The extensive and complex scheme stretched from the U.S. to call centers in the Philippines and across Latin America.
Telemarketers would phone patients offering them free medical braces. When call centers verified that the patients were covered by Medicare, they were transferred to telemedicine companies, where doctors — who never examined the patients — would prescribe the braces even if there was no medical reason to have one.
The medical equipment companies would bill the government and kickback a portion of the funds to the others in the scam.
The fraud was detected last year when a number of Medicare beneficiaries smelled what sounded like a scam and called a government hotline. The FBI, Health and Human Services, and Internal Revenue Service investigated.
“The breadth of this nationwide conspiracy should be frightening to all who rely on some form of health care,” IRS investigations chief Don Fort said. “The conspiracy … details broad corruption, massive amounts of greed and systemic flaws in our health care system that were exploited by the defendants.” (VOA)
New Delhi: India, ‘the pharmacy of the developing world’, sees foreign patients flocking to the country due to its specialised and cost-effective medical care. This has resulted in the mushrooming of online startups that help foreign nationals find the best treatment in the country.
One such medical tourism start-up, PlanMyMedicalTrip.com, which was started nine years back, is now serving as a one-stop solution provider for foreign medical tourists.
“We have patients coming in from all over the world. However, Africa, GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) regions contribute towards the sector by as much as 30 percent of the total inflow,” said Anurav Rane, CEO, PlanMyMedicalTrip.com.
“There are a lot of different medical and surgical options for medical tourists coming to India. Primarily, medical tourists get elective procedures done such as cosmetic surgery, hip and knee replacements, dental procedures and infertility treatments,” he told reporters.
According to a white paper by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Grant Thornton, the Indian medical tourism market is set to touch $8 billion by 2020, up from the current $3 billion.
Saed Saber from Egypt recently came to India for knee replacement. “I wanted to get my knee replacement done but was confused as to how I should go about it. Since options in my country are limited with a high price tag for treatment, I started exploring for options, that is when I came to know about PlanMyMedicalTrip.com,” he said.
Saber visited PlanMyMedicalTrip.com to get his queries answered. “I got to know several options for hospitals across India and also got all the necessary procedures sorted for me in no time,” he told reporters.
IndiaHealthCareTourism.com, inaugurated recently by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is an initiative by the government to boost healthcare tourism. It is a web portal that helps and guides the patients who are looking for treatment options in India. It lists 93 topmost medical centres, 30 Ayurveda and wellness centres and one special category centre.
Another online venture, Medi Connect India, deals with the latest technologies like IVF (infertility), robotics surgeries, stem cell therapies, etc.
“The main reason behind India becoming a hub for medical tourism for foreigners is cost-effectiveness. Here in metro cities, you would get world-class treatment under the best doctors in a much cheaper way than what they would end up paying in their respective countries,” Shalini, assistant team lead, Medi Connect India, told reporters.
“In countries like Africa, a lot of modern treatments and good doctors are not available and hence they find India a good destination for medical reasons. Here, the best treatments are available with no waiting time in the company of highly-qualified doctors,” she added.
Medi Connect India has won the “National Tourism Award” for two consecutive years for excellence in medical tourism.
To serve foreign nationals better, most of the top-rated hospitals in India have also hired language translators to make patients, especially from Balkan and African countries, feel comfortable and help facilitate their treatment.
According to the CII-Grant Thornton white paper, Chennai, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi-NCR are the most favoured medical tourism destinations for foreigners who avail treatments in India.
Cost is a major driver for nearly 80 percent of medical tourists across the globe, it added.
The cost factor and availability of accredited facilities have led to the emergence of several global medical tourism corridors like Singapore, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mexico and Costa Rica- and India appears to have taken a lead. (Vivek Singh Chauhan, IANS)