It hasn’t been a great month so far for the reputation of the health scheme Gesy, but whatever operational weaknesses the system might have, they pale in comparison to the behaviour of some doctors who have decided Gesy is just a cash cow to be milked for all it’s worth.
Yesterday the attorney-general’s office greenlighted the prosecution of a Gesy doctor who allegedly issued fictious invoices for services not rendered. It only came to light after patients complained that the documentation turned up on their medical files.
The available evidence suggests the doctor faces being charged with corruption, money laundering, falsification of documents, and fraud and embezzlement through false pretences, according to the legal service.
The Cyprus Medical Association, in its usual fashion, through condemning the case, always manages to suggest when doctors do bad things that such incidences are rare. Perhaps that’s because few have ever been actually caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
Last week the auditor-general’s scathing report revealed how much some doctors have been paid since the Gesy rollout.
According to the report, 11 specialised doctors received over €500,000 for 2020, the highest of which was €870,742 for a single doctor. Two gynaecologists in 2020 jointly received a fee of €1.4m for outpatient care alone. Another 67 claimed over €300,000.
Although it’s probably true that the vast majority of doctors are honest, the number of offenders is not only just a handful of bad apples either, and likely those incidences that see the light of day are just the tip of the iceberg.
We all know that certain professions have been tax evading for decades. Doctors have always been up there among the ‘poorest’ professions on the island.
It’s mind boggling though, that according to the auditor-general’s report those who did file tax returns for 2017, 2018 and 2019 listed figures below their renumeration from the Health Insurance Organisation (HIO). Did they really not realise that now, the same government machinery that collects their taxes, is also paying their wages or did they think it would just be ‘business as usual’? Doctors are supposed to be clever people or we would not put our lives in their hands.
Obviously, the offenders thought the good times would continue and who could blame them given the apparent lack of oversight by the HIO. It does not appear to be on top of things at all.
If the patients in the latest case had not noticed something amiss, that particular doctor might still be falsely invoicing the HIO without getting caught out.
Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said yesterday that they had asked the HIO a year ago this month to submit data regarding the tax returns of Gesy doctors so the tax department could check for potential evasion.
No surprise, they’re still waiting, and in the meantime, Gesy continues to be decimated by opportunists and most likely not just by some greedy doctors. How many contractors, service and other providers might be aboard the same gravy train?