'Russian fraudsters' scamming German healthcare sector

Student training in elderly care puts on rubber gloves in Berlin, Germany (14 May 2014) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Germany faces a shortage of trained practitioners to care for the elderly

Russian fraudsters are costing the German healthcare system at least €1bn ($1.1bn; £796m) a year, according to an investigation by German media.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police says it is aware of the "phenomenon" of invoice fraud by care providers from the former Soviet Union, reports say.

MP Stephan Mayer described it as "organised crime on a grand scale".

Experts and health insurers are demanding more checks and controls within the German care industry.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption "In good hands" according to this elderly care textbook - but are all providers using qualified care workers?

The claims emerged from an investigation by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper and Bavarian public broadcaster BR.

German care sector organisations often hire staff from the former Soviet Union because of labour shortages.

In many cases the fraud relates to people receiving care visits in their own home, paid for by health insurers.

The providers allegedly bill for a higher level of visits than is actually provided - and few checks are made.

Another type of fraud detailed by the investigators is when the care providers bill for visits by qualified care workers, but then actually employ unqualified assistants at a lower hourly rate, and pocket the difference.

The journalists report that in some cases the patient and their family are aware of the fraud, collude with it, and split the profits with the care provider.

"Investing in Russian home care services is a business division of Russian-Eurasian organised crime," said an internal federal police memo, seen by the reporters.

A spokesman for the body representing health insurers told the reporters that the only way to uncover such machinations was to allow unannounced inspections of care provision.

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