The founders of crime usually have a free path: there is almost no insight into this form of undermining. The research editorial team of RTL Nieuws shows for the first time that this is a national problem.
Earlier this year, it became clear that criminals were setting up care facilities in Twente. Suspicious cases also appear to have occurred in Limburg, Drenthe and other parts of the country. This applies, for example, to self-help or addiction care facilities.
Limburg: money laundering and drug trafficking in healthcare
Recent research has been carried out in Limburg on possible criminal interference in healthcare facilities. It turned out that there were 15 signs of criminal meddling in healthcare in this province. Researchers from the Regional Information and Expert Center (RIEC) have come across a wide variety of cases such as drug trafficking, criminal family networks and money laundering.
“It seems to me the most that vulnerable people are being used for crime,” says Luc Winants, mayor of Venray and owner of a health fraud portfolio in Limburg. “These people are already vulnerable, they grab an outstretched hand and end up in a criminal pattern where they’re doing it. It doesn’t come true anymore. It’s and sad.”
Drugs and gifts, but no worries
The health insurance company VGZ notes an increase in the number of offenders abusing clients and money for healthcare: “In recent years, it has become increasingly common for criminals to meet during or in preparation for a fraud investigation.”
For example, they encountered, for example, when thirty people would receive help from a care provider, but care was not an issue. People in need of care received medicines and gifts in exchange for access to their bank account. The care provider then demanded a refund, but the care was not delivered and the money disappeared into the provider’s pockets. When customers started asking questions, they were threatened.
Weeding and prostitution
Menzis Health Insurance has also seen many cases of health crimes in recent years: fifteen cases in the Arnhem region, at least five in Groningen and at least five in The Hague and the surrounding area.
For example, they saw health care providers not providing the promised care to their clients at all, but instead working them in a cannabis nursery under the guise of “daily activities”. They also saw a case of a person in need of care who was forced into prostitution by a care provider.
The problem is probably much bigger
Many parties, such as municipalities, health insurance companies and the police, work with each other. We often don’t focus on this form of crime at all, which means a lot goes unnoticed.
These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg, according to the Zorgfraude Information Hub, which conducts health crime research on behalf of the health ministry. They also conducted previous research in Twente. Researcher Carla Vianen: “I think the problem is much bigger. If more attention is paid to this problem, I think a lot more things will come up.”
Knives, drugs and suspicious cash flows in Drenthe
In Rolde and Drenthe, they also know of a case where everything went wrong. In the woods was the Always Care Trust Foundation, where, among other things, former addicts and former inmates received 24-hour support. Mayor Anno Wietze Hiemstra: “We received signals that the quality of care would be poor. When we visited her, we were shocked by what we found.”
It turned out that adults and children were mixed and most of them had no official indications for care at all. Mayor of Hiemstra: “Someone was imprisoned while it was not allowed. Knives were available. And there were suspicions that drugs were being distributed in the care facility.”
The staff was not properly trained and both the care coordinator and the manager had such criminal records that, according to the mayor, they should never work in the care sector.
A toothless tiger
When the municipality wanted to take action, it turned out to be complicated. It was not clear who was allowed to intervene, such as the municipality or the inspectorate. “And then it turns out that the government is sometimes a toothless tiger when everyone is convinced that action needs to be taken, but in this particular situation you simply don’t have the right authority,” says the disappointed mayor of Hiemstra.
The institution is now bankrupt and the clients have been transferred. Mayor of Hiemstra: “We would say that everything ends well. But it cannot be that the government no longer has the instruments to take action against this type of cowboy care.”
The possibility of being caught low
The Zorgfraude information hub is too easy to set up a healthcare facility: “Anyone can become a healthcare provider. And if you also employ clients you can influence, it’s very easy to make money.”
The issues that came to light later turn out to be difficult to resolve. “You see that the chance of being caught is small and that is why it is unlikely to actually be punished,” says Information Knooppunt Zorgfraude.
It is especially difficult, for example, that information should not be shared by municipalities and health insurance companies. Health insurance company Menzis explains: “If we hear about a healthcare provider that the municipality no longer wants to do business with him, then as a healthcare office we should not know why. Not even in the case of healthcare fraud.” And then the health insurance company can’t investigate or stop payments. Criminals can also very easily start again in another place.
A new law needs to be introduced, says the Information Knooppunt Zorgfraude, which makes it easier for those involved to share information about crime providers.
For this study, the RTL Nieuws research editorial team spoke with municipalities, health insurance companies, all regional information and professional centers (RIEC), the judiciary, the Association of Dutch Municipalities, the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment, and many other stakeholders and experts.
Justification of the numbers found:
- RIEC Limburg: 15 signals
- Menzis: at least 25 cases
- VGZ: at least 5 cases
- Municipality of Nieuwegein: at least 2 cases
- Municipality of Breda: 2 cases
- Drenthe: 1 example
- Regio Twente (previous IKZ research): 22 cases
Some of these cases may overlap because, for example, some health insurance companies mention cases in regions where we have also spoken to municipalities and / or RIECs.