Corona citizen analyzes: Investigators suspect serious damage


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Status: 05/23/2022 5:12 PM

It appears that controls at corona testing centers are still inadequate. Police investigators are seeking information from NDR, WDR And SZ incurs more than 1 billion euros in damages in nationwide citizen tests.

By Thilko Gläßgen, Arnd Henze, WDR and Markus Grill, NDR

Franz Josef Werns is considered one of the richest Germans. The head of the largest tax office, ETL, is known above all as the sponsor of the third-tier football club Viktoria Köln. But Wernze also appears to collect football trading cards for companies like other people. According to the current listing in the business database, he has interests in 712 companies, many of which he owns entirely. One of them has been running a rapid test center at Victoria Coln Stadium since last year.

Marcus Grill

This test center is great in many ways: on the one hand, it reports a very large number of citizen checks to the NSW Department of Health almost every day, but on the other hand, the testing center detects almost no one being infected. In mid-May, for example, about five percent of corona tests at testing centers in North Rhine-Westphalia were positive each day. However, at Wernze’s test site, it’s usually only about 0.2 percent or less. When asked how to explain this low positive rate given the large number of cases, the general manager of the testing center replied: “The question cannot be answered with our medical knowledge.”

Doubtful test numbers have been reported

WDR, NDR And the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” examined the testing site and counted people who wanted to be tested there for several days from opening to closing. On Friday, May 13, 52 pedestrians and 101 motorists coming for testing were counted. However, the testing center reported 2,670 citizen tests to the ministry that day. On Monday, May 16, a total of 55 infantrymen and 123 vehicles arrived at the test site, and 2,186 citizen tests were reported to the ministry that day.

Even after several days, the general manager of the test center did not respond to a question about how to explain these huge differences. Instead, he wrote, a “longer period of time” was necessary to “reasonably and reliably research” the test numbers for the two days. The next day WDR, NDR And “SZ” has sent questions to the testing center, and only 230 tests have been reported to the ministry – the lowest number in the entire year so far.

Patron Wears himself says he is currently on vacation and therefore cannot comment on questions. A lawyer he hired later declared that Firenze had “withdrawn from the business for an extended period”. “However, if the allegations I have referred to are confirmed, my client will not hesitate to take the necessary legal action, especially contractual.”

No consequences despite suspicious reports

The case also highlights the lack of controls by the authorities. In April alone, this testing center reported an average of 2,320 citizen tests each day. The number of citizens’ examinations, and 2,680 examinations were reported to the Ministry daily. The managing director explains this discrepancy with the “influx of tested people […] Through events at the Höhenberger Sportpark in the youth, senior and professional sectors.”

For each citizen test, the state currently reimburses test operators 11.50 euros; Until January it was 12.50 euros. In this year alone, the test center in Wernze reported more than 234,000 tests for citizens, generating revenue of about 2.8 million euros. The testing site had seemed strange to the Kowloon Health Department for months. Upon request, the office stated that “the strikingly positive rate and persistently large number of reports were already detected at the beginning of October 2021.” Due to “abnormalities”, the test site was reported “again” to the KVN on January 26, 2022. “A second report was submitted on April 23, 2022. The KVP takes care of the further procedure.” Health department writes.

But despite the suspicious reports, the testing center has continued to report between 2,000 and 4,000 citizen tests per day for the ministry in the past few months. Did KV do anything in this situation? Upon request, the North Rhine-Westphalia Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians only states: “We do not provide any general information about individual testing sites”.

“System error”

Investigators who deal with billing fraud by test centers have long known that monitoring doesn’t work. KVen and health authorities transfer responsibility to each other. In addition, the Statutory Health Insurance Physicians Association receives a 3.5 percent fee for payment and control of each citizen exam billed. Jörg Engelhadt, who heads the commissioner to investigate fraudulent billing in the healthcare system at the Berlin State Criminal Police Office (LKA), considers this a “system error”. If KVs detect too many mock tests, their fees will drop, Engelhard says. This is not an incentive to examine particularly critically.

Citizen exams cost a lot of money. According to the Federal Office for Social Security, which distributes tax money to associations of statutory health insurance physicians, about 10.3 billion euros had been spent nationwide on testing citizens by the end of April. In Berlin alone, there are currently about 380 investigations against operators of test sites, Engelhard says. If you extrapolate the amount of damage nationwide, you’ll get an estimated 500 to 550 million euros in damage through citizen test fraud, Engelhard says. But the dark field is noticeably larger because the controls are loosely structured. Thus, the actual damage is likely to be 2-3 times greater, “until we reach the frightening figure of one and a half billion euros”, says the LKA investigator.

It is not an isolated case

The current case in Cologne is now the fifth in which WDR, NDR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” disclose irregularities:

  • In May 2021, it became known that rapid testing company Medican had reported more tests to the ministry than it actually did. The case against the operators is currently taking place in the Bochum District Court, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office assumes compensation of 25 million euros.
  • In June 2021, it emerged that many rapid test centers were billing the state for exorbitant material costs. Although they could buy express tests for as little as 2 euros, most of them paid six euros to buy.
  • In February 2022, it became known that a testing center in Cologne, in the middle of the Omicron wave, reported nearly 10,000 tests of citizens in one day, but that it did not find a single positive case. Other testing sites also reported no infections. For virologist Christian Drosten, that was “unbelievable”. Then the city of Cologne said that in the future it would consider the very low positive rates as a suspected case.
  • In April 2022, it emerged that many secondary schools in North Rhine-Westphalia maintain citizen testing centers on or near school premises, and that students are regularly tested at federal government expense, even though this is illegal and eight times the cost of regular school-exams. in schools.

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Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said his spokesperson that statutory health insurance physicians’ unions had a duty to “inform the Public Prosecutor’s Office if there is a suspicion of a criminal offence”.

WDR, NDR The “Süddeutsche Zeitung” asked all health insurance companies across the country how many cases of fraud from testing centers they had reported in the meantime. Brandenburg and Lower Saxony reported only one case to the Prosecutor’s Office, NRW 7, Baden-Württemberg 14, Bavaria 21. Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Saarland, Hesse and Thuringia reported that they had not reported any cases until then.

There were also significant differences in refunds. While Hess had recovered a total of 4.9 million euros from 164 testing centres, health insurers in Hamburg or Saarland had recovered zero euros for the state by then.

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