NHS stung for £200m in health tourism scam using European insurance cards
Posted on 15/01/2018 by
We used fake national insurance numbers to get European Health Insurance Cards under the names Theresa May and Donald Trump
A HUGE health tourism scam is costing the NHS £200million a year.
Millions have taken advantage of a loophole to claim free healthcare across Europe — with Britain picking up the bill.
A probe by The Sun reveals how easy it is to get a fake European Health Insurance Card giving unlimited access to treatment. EU hospitals then claim the cost back from the UK government.
The NHS has paid out more than £1billion over the past decade — an average of £20 for every card issued.
Around £200million, the cost of 8,600 extra nurses, is thought to be fraudulent.
The health service has reclaimed just £145million over the past five years.
How the card swindle works
SUN man Matt Dathan obtained 13 fake cards, including one using the name Fake EHIC.
All he had to do was register for a European Health Insurance Card account and fill in an application form online.
He used fake names and dates of birth and made-up national insurance numbers.
We used fake national insurance numbers to get EHIC cards issued in the names of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, PM Theresa May, US President Donald Trump and EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
Figures show that the NHS issued 57million new EHIC cards over the past decade.
But according to a whistleblower at the NHS Business Services Authority, based in Newcastle, one in five applications are fraudulent.
He said he had issued more than 20 cards to the same address after bosses told him not to waste time on checks.
The Sun contacted hospitals on the continent asking what other ID we would need to claim free healthcare with the card - but they said patients only had to flash the EHIC card.
Many Polish families are said to get the cards for relatives, who use them to reduce health costs at home.
The whistleblower told The Sun: “I raised these loopholes and worries many times when working for the NHSBSA.
“To see abuse of NHS funds and fraud being accepted by management was something I couldn’t live with.”
The total cost of the health tourism scandal
THE scandal of health tourism costs the cash-starved NHS up to £2billion annually — enough to pay the salaries of 86,000 nurses.
Last year an unnamed non-EU patient had treatment worth £532,498 at a Manchester hospital
Expectant mums flocking to Britain are believed to account for treatment worth £16million.
Figures show at least 2,631 ineligible foreigners had their babies delivered on maternity wards in this country in 2017, up from 2,167 the year before.
NHS trusts have a legal responsibility to recover charges.
In 2011 Nigerian Bimbo Ayelabola, 37, ran up a £145,000 bill for a caesarean section after travelling to Britain while pregnant with quins.
She never paid a penny and says she was never sent a bill.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the Commons health committee, said: “I’m shocked. It exposes a serious loophole, which needs to be closed immediately.”
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “This looks like serious abuse of a system that is to ensure Brits on holiday or working in Europe get their healthcare covered. It’s clear we need a full inquiry.”
And senior Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg fumed: “When the NHS is so stretched wasting money on bogus European Health cards is a particularly egregious waste of taxpayers' money.
“Taxpayers’ money should always be spent well. This is a potentially criminal racket, which rudimentary checks would stop.
“As often with an EU scheme, it leaves itself open to fraud.
“The British taxpayer is hopeless in getting money back from other EU countries, which is ridiculous because we have much more health tourism.
“We should use Brexit to make systems like this much more efficient.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said the system was being revised. A spokesman said: “This is clearly unacceptable.”