Thu, Apr 15, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers grill Yaung on stopping insurance fraud

'PHRASE OF THE DAY' The health minister said he could not guarantee that fraud would never happen again as there 'will always be burglars'

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators yesterday questioned Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) over how the department would prevent medical fraud such as that committed by a former doctor at Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital (KMUH).

The minister said he could not guarantee fraud would not happen again in future, as members of the legislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee questioned him about the insurance fraud case that the department made public on Monday.

The DOH on Monday slapped the hospital with a NT$150 million (US$4.8 million) fine, the highest on record, after uncovering a case in which one of the hospital's former gynecologists, Hsu Shih-cheng (許世正), removed healthy organs from patients to claim insurance compensation.

While commending Yaung for his handling of the matter, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hou Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳) demanded to know whether the department could prevent similar incidents from happening.

Yaung said he could not make any guarantee, saying: “No matter how many police officers we have, there will always be burglars.”

While many present burst into laughter, other lawmakers were not amused, saying that Yaung's latest controversial remark was just another “phrase of the day.”

Including Hsu, seven doctors from 10 hospitals are under investigation or have been charged with insurance fraud.

The former gynecologist allegedly performed operations to remove healthy organs from women and gave them chemotherapy to help them fraudulently obtain tens of millions of dollars in payments from various insurance firms.

He also allegedly defrauded the National Health Insurance system out of NT$500,000 in the process.

The hospital has said that the crimes were the result of Hsu’s personal actions and did not involve other doctors at the hospital, adding that it would seek an administrative remedy for what it called an “unfair” punishment.

In related news, the DOH said yesterday that in two years low-dose vitamins would be regulated as food rather than drugs, which may indirectly cause the price of such vitamins to increase by as much as 30 percent.

Currently, low-dose vitamins are regulated as both drugs and food, which causes confusion and has long been an issue of concern among legislators. High-dose vitamins are regulated as drugs, which means distributors must obtain drug permit licenses and are allowed to advertise medicinal benefits.

However, because a 30 percent tariff would be imposed on imported low-dose vitamins once the new regulations came into effect, retail prices would inevitably rise. Yaung said that the DOH could not do anything about pricing.

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