Foreigners Behind $500,000 Medicare Scam

Foreigners behind $500,000 medicare scam
'Highly sophisticated' scam; RAMQ creates special investigative unit

The Gazette
February 5, 2010 11:37 AM
Comments (17)

MONTREAL Quebec's medicare insurance board has set up a special investigative unit as a result of the largest fraud in its history in which about 750 foreigners obtained free health care at a cost to taxpayers of more than $500,000.

An official with the Rgie de l'assurance maladie du Qubec yesterday described a “sophisticated” scam that lasted five years in which people from the Middle East, almost all from Lebanon, used bogus documentation to obtain medicare cards.

“These people simulated their residence here in Quebec,” said Marc Lortie, a RAMQ spokesperson.

“These individuals, with the complicity of an immigration consultant, procured automatic banking cards, telephone cards and other documents to show proof of residence.”

A 1 1/2-year-long investigation by RAMQ revealed that 1,451 individuals had falsely obtained medicare cards. Of that number, 747 received medical services that cost $508,768.

Lortie said that all the people involved had received permanent residency status by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “In addition to defrauding RAMQ, they also lied to the federal government,” he added.

With their permanent residency papers in hand, they showed up at RAMQ offices in Montreal to get their medicare cards. But they then returned to Lebanon, Lortie said.

Under RAMQ regulations, if a resident of Quebec is out of the country for at least 183 days in a given year, he or she loses their right to medicare coverage, and must reapply.

RAMQ has so far recovered about $42,000. Lortie said that individuals will have to pay back all illegally obtained health-care expenses if they want to reclaim their medicare coverage.

“The first objective of these individuals was to obtain Canadian citizenship, not necessarily to obtain free health care,” Lortie explained.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials were not available for comment. But in general, the department refrains from discussing personal cases.

Karine Rivard, press attach to Health Minister Yves Bolduc, said the government continues to have full confidence in RAMQ despite the massive fraud.

“RAMQ has been doing everything it can to fight fraud – from inspections to adding a bar code to the medicare card,” Rivard said. “We can never avoid fraud completely, but the important thing is to react to fraud and to recover money.”

Asked to explain how the fraud could have lasted five years, Lortie replied that the operation was “highly sophisticated and the immigration consultant had many accomplices.”

As part of its response to the fraud, RAMQ established a team of four full-time inspectors in October to investigate suspicious cases. Lortie said RAMQ has taken other measures, but declined to disclose them for fear of tipping off those who want to take advantage of the system.

In 2008-2009, RAMQ reclaimed $1.1 million in fraudulent or irregular claims.

“I don't want to minimize anything, but $1 million out of a budget of $7.8 billion is not enormous,” Lortie said.


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Your Comments :


February 05, 2010 – 12:45 PM
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Well if it were only RAMQ fraud it's one thing. I'm of the school that if you're coming into Canada and want to live here, you best have something to bring to the table. This BS of folks coming here to live off of government funds and making 4+ kids while neither adult is working, has got to stop. If they don't have money, if they don't come in with a 'life plan' (kind of like a business plan when you want money from the banks) then don't come. Stay where you are cuz we don't need anymore freeloaders.


February 05, 2010 – 12:22 PM
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Not enough doctors, nor beds nor proper care for the people who pay their taxes – what a world. I had a friend who told me he came to Canada because he was told (on a message board) that in Canada you get free housing, medical care, education and money. He was not a poor person and certainly did not qualify as a refugee but they are taught how to work the system. While most immigrants are honest and hardworking people, these scammers ruin it for everyone because now we look at immigrants with a tainted eye.


February 05, 2010 – 11:12 AM
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“We need to put an end to dual citizenship. Either you want to be Canadian, or you don't. There's no middle ground'

It's more complicated than that. There are Canadians, born in Canada, who have only Canadian citizenship, who live and work overseas and who have ceased all residency from Canada … ie pay no taxes in Canada …. who are still accessing health care … by using relatives addresses etc.

This has been going on as long as i can can remember.

The problem is our ignorant and complacent governments.

They don't speak to one another.

The left doesn't know what the right is doing.

Its easier and less difficult to tax Canadians instead of fixing the problem.


February 05, 2010 – 11:11 AM
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'Highly sophisticated' scam; RAMQ creates special investigative unit

'Highly sophisticated' ? No, not really –

It's more like “Idiots in governement“

No wonder Quebec is going broke !


February 05, 2010 – 10:50 AM
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and what will it take Minister Kenney to finally ACT against immigration fraud and immigration consultants?

Enough words…more action before the recently arrived illegal Tamils pick up the tricks as well as those from Haiti.

I suspect Health care fraud is far more prevalent than acknowledged/let on especially as retired UN employees are able to easily acquire Canadian Citizenship and bring all their sick and aging relatives.


February 05, 2010 – 10:14 AM
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If you dont live in this Country Canada and pay taxes to Quebec, you have no right for Medicare..The $1 Million is a spit in the sea. The real amount is in the 10's of millions, possibly 100's of millions. We have become so PC we have become stupid. Changes to the citizenship laws are in order. Three years of being in Canada is nonsense..The min shoudl be 7 years with proof that they have lived and paid taxes over those 7 years.

Loose Popgun on Deck

February 05, 2010 – 10:03 AM
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Name the immigration consultant as soon as legally possible. As for the fraudsters, they should be barred from entering this country again, any assets the have here frozen. They must be made to repay every penny, and all citizenship rights revoked. Enough is enough is enough.

Proud Canadian

February 05, 2010 – 10:01 AM
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about time some of these people were caught. I had former friends that admitted that their family was using their medicare cards. this was back before our pictures were on them. I doubted the fraud had stopped. They just found another way.


February 05, 2010 – 9:55 AM
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Surprise, surprise! Not…


February 05, 2010 – 9:50 AM
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All of the above DITTO!!!

No more dual citizenship

No more Canadians of convenience.


February 05, 2010 – 9:34 AM
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I remember being chastised for being racist when I suggested that many Canadian immigrants are just what Remi alleges. Canadians of convenience. Many don't even live in Canada but show up whenever they need social assistance.

No More Dual Citizenship

February 05, 2010 – 9:31 AM
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We need to put an end to dual citizenship. Either you want to be Canadian, or you don't. There's no middle ground.


February 05, 2010 – 9:28 AM
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I remember being chastised for being racist when I suggested that many Canadian immigrants are just what Remi alleges. Canadians of convenience. Many don't even live in Canada but show up whenever they need social assistance.


February 05, 2010 – 9:24 AM
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Send them home. They want to come here to exploit our system, deny them citizenship. Strip them of the right to be a Canadian.


February 05, 2010 – 8:43 AM
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Remember 65,000 Lebanese are Canadians of convenience.