A Victorian medical receptionist has been sentenced today to 2 years imprisonment, with a minimum term of 12 months by the Melbourne County Court after pleading guilty to charging more than $181,000 in fraudulent Medicare payments.
Following a successful referral to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) by the Department of Health and Aged Care’s Benefits Integrity Division, Ms Sarah Ward from Clyde North entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment after being charged with one count of obtaining a financial advantage under section 134.2(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995. Ms Ward will be eligible for release after 12 months, subject to being of good behaviour for 12 months and payment of a pecuniary penalty to the Commonwealth of $1000.
During the period of 29 July 2017 and 27 March 2020, Ms Ward made false claims relating to 1,610 Medicare Benefits Schedule items. 783 of the claims were made in her name and 827 claims were made in the name of her husband.
As a result of the false claims, Ms Ward received $181,121.75 in Medicare benefits to which she was not entitled. All monies have been repaid in full.
This case highlights the consequences of committing Medicare fraud.
The Department of Health and Aged Care has a range of methods to identify, verify and investigate inaccurate Medicare claiming.
The department reviews all tip offs and where incorrectly or fraudulently claimed benefits are identified, will seek to recover those funds and refer matters to the CDPP where criminal prosecution is considered appropriate.
The department may work in partnership or request the assistance of law enforcement bodies like the Australian Federal Police (AFP) or State Police where appropriate.
Anyone with information about suspected non-compliance or fraud of Government health payments by health providers can make a report via the “Reporting Fraud” page on the Department of Health’s website at www.health.gov.au/fraud-tip-offs or by calling the Provider Benefits Integrity Hotline on 1800 314 808.