The Associated Press reports
that the FBI has started cracking down on a widespread insurance scam in which hospitals fill up their beds with homeless people posing as patients, and then charge government programs for the costs.
Hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange counties submitted phony Medicare and Medi-Cal bills for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homeless patients — including drug addicts and the mentally ill — recruited from downtown's Skid Row, state and federal authorities allege.
While treating minor problems that did not require hospitalization, such as dehydration, exhaustion or yeast infections, the hospitals allegedly kept homeless patients in beds for as long as three days and charged the government for the stays.
Put that together with this report
from Jan 2008 which described how hospitals frequently employ fake patients in order to spy on doctors and check out whether they're doing what they should be. The problem is that sometimes the real patients in the emergency room are stuck in line behind the fake patients.
And let's not forget the 2006 case
of the Norwegian doctor who invented case studies of 900 fake patients to pad out his study of whether aspirin could reduce the risk of oral cancer.
The conclusion: Fake patients are obviously an important, under-appreciated part of the modern health-care industry. (Thanks, Joe)