Workers’ compensation fraud costs the insurance industry an estimated $7 billion per year. Not only is it employee fraud, but employer and provider fraud can be just as, or even more expensive. Recent stories out of California, for example, revealed an alleged $40 million medical billing and kickback operation that involved more than two dozen physicians, pharmacists, and business owners.
Often the expense and time involved makes organizations reluctant to pursue fraud charges against offending parties. But being aware of the many ways fraud is perpetuated is key to preventing it. There are also some simple preventive measures that could potentially save companies mega dollars.
Types of Fraud
Companies may misrepresent the nature of the business, or misclassify the types of jobs, number of employees or payroll to get lower premiums. They may hide premium scams behind dummy corporations. Or they may not even have workers’ compensation insurance, creating an unfair playing field for their market.
Here are some red flags that may indicate fraud by an employer:
- The address. If a post office box is used or the company is located in an area different from its mailing address.
- Workers are paid in cash with no payroll stub. Or, paid with in-kind services, such as free rent.
- Too many admins. The number of clerical employees is significantly higher than the number of non-clerical staff for the type of business.
- The company has not been audited.
- Multi-businesses. The company has several businesses operating from the same address.
- The name. The company’s name is inconsistent with the type of work done.
- Too many independents. There is an excessive number of independent contractor classifications. The employer may require new employees to fill out a 1099 instead of a W-2.
- Low bids. Estimated prices for projects are substantially lower than the industry standard.
Bills for unnecessary or nonexistent medical services have garnered media attention in recent years. In some cases, physicians team up with attorneys to commit workers’ compensation fraud. They may exaggerate the severity of injuries that do occur and bill payers for what would be the ‘appropriate’ type and number of treatments for the conditions.
In some scams, clinics and attorneys hire people to lure workers who may or may not even be aware something untoward is happening. In other cases, a ‘clinic’ may exist only on paper, or is just an office with little equipment. Then there are medical providers who game both the workers’ compensation and group health systems by billing both for the same treatment.
There are some red flags that may indicate provider fraud is taking place.
- Questionable bills. The payer is billed for a treatment the injured worker does not recall.
- Weekend bills. Invoices are received for services performed on weekends or holidays.
- Bad timing. Provider sends bills for treatments after the injured worker has gone to a different provider.
- Reports too alike. Medical reports appear nearly identical for different patients and conditions.
- Questionable treatment. The type and length of treatment is not in sync with the type and seriousness of the reported injury.
- Reporting delays. There are unexplained lags in receiving requested records.
- Attorney closeness. The provider works with the same lawyer repeatedly on questionable claims.
Reporting an injury on a Monday morning or after a holiday are two of the biggest red flags that indicate something may be amiss with a claim. Other indications that an injury may be fraudulent include the following:
- The worker is new, seasonal or contractual and/or has a history of short-term employment.
- Early attorney involvement. The worker has a lawyer as soon as the injury is reported.
- Changing situation. The employee is faced with possible termination or layoff.
- Funny facts. The description of the accident does not make sense with the reported injury.
- No witnesses. The worker was alone when the injury occurred.
- The worker is resentful.
Fraud costs companies billions of dollars. The money lost is passed on — in the form of higher premiums, increased prices for services, or lower money available to pay employees or expand the business.
Author Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center.
Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.