December 1, 2002
by Catherine Wilson, Editor
I am going to write about fraud. “Dentists’ Fraud Growing” screamed a recent headline in a national newspaper. ‘Experts’ told a national conference on health care fraud that fraud and billing abuse among Canada’s dentists appears to be growing fast as “an expanding profession grapples with a limited market.”
This isn’t because there’s a lot of dental disease out there, according to Dr. Rick Beyers, a former president of Ontario’s Royal College of Dental Surgeons. It’s because, “there is such a loose insurance scheme that if you get a warm body through the door, you will make a buck,” he said.
Wes Moore, past president of the Canadian Health Care Anti-Fraud Association (which organized the conference) said the number of dentists in Canada is growing at a faster rate than the pool of patients, putting pressure on some of them to find ‘creative’ ways of shoring up their income.
Now let’s change gears and talk about dentists who need to learn how to protect themselves from those who would embezzle from them. How would you feel walking into your practice tomorrow morning, looking at those bright, shiny faces and wondering which one was robbing you blind? Sure, they may love you but they love your money even more. After all, why should you be the only one getting rich around here? Employee embezzlement is a concern. Dental offices can be easy targets because many dentists continue to think of themselves as clinicians rather than businesspeople.
While there is no description of a ‘typical’ embezzler, there are always red flags: gambling, substance abuse, divorce, medical bills, extravagant purchases, a discernable attitude of resentment toward you and your lifestyle…
Embezzlement doesn’t happen by accident. In fact, it takes planning, preparation and a lot of, well, intestinal fortitude. Fraud awareness at all levels, clear reporting channels and protection for those who report suspicions go a long way to ensuring detection at an early stage. Better still, rigorous recruitment screening should ensure you don’t hire ‘fraudsters’ in the first place.
The bottom line? One case of fraud is one too many — no matter who is committing the crime. Do not tolerate abuse by your staff or your colleagues. Protect yourself, protect your profession.