Lie detection technology and fraud

liarEngland is a longtime user of voice-stress analysis, the system that’s touted to detect when someone strays from the truth. British insurers as well as government agencies have used the technology to question claimants: it detects changes in voice stress, supposedly a reliable indicator of lying.

The technology has its supporters — and critics — on both sides of the Atlantic. There has been little published data to indicate how well the technology works with insurance claimants.

One borough of London recently released data on the first 1,000 disability claimants on which the technology was tested. Of the 1,000 subjects, 43 — or 4.3 percent — were flagged by the system and all of these were found to have filed false claims or displayed a high potential for committing fraud.

Even more impressive: Another 281 claimants withdrew their claims after they learned about the use of the technology. The withdrawal rate is twice what it was before the technology was used.

So users now claim that voice-stress analysis is not only a detection tool, but a deterrent as well.

Officials say no claim is ever denied solely on the basis of voice-stress analysis, but it does help to direct investigators to claims that merit more scrutiny. It’s also said to help speed claims payments to truthful claimants.

So, is America ready for this technology? In an age when cameras catch red-light violators and the FBI can monitor phone calls and e-mail at will, perhaps Americans would accept this technology — if it helps to keep premiums in check.

I’d like to see the results of more thorough testing first.

The latest fraud-fighting heros

False claimsLast week was a lucrative one for whistleblowers. Two false-claims cases were resolved — one huge and the other tiny by comparison — with the whistleblowers set to walk away with millions.

The big case involves kickbacks and illegal pricing by mega-pharma conglomerate Merck. The drug company agreed to pay more than $650 million to federal and state governments. Out of that settlement, former Merck employee H. Dean Steinke will receive a bounty of more than $68 million.

Robert McCaslinThe other case involves a hospital in Houston. Employee Robert McCaslin (left) discovered the hospital was billing Medicare for treatment provided to prisoners and patients who had private insurance. He reported his findings to supervisors and was told “that’s just the way we do things here.” As a taxpayer, McCaslin was outraged; he said he couldn’t sleep at night knowing his employer was committing fraud.

He’s probably sleeping soundly these days. He received $3 million of the $15 million the hospital agreed to pay back to the government.

McCaslin seems to be an ordinary guy and a man of few words. But this quiet hero may well inspire others. Asked his plans for the future, he said he’s taking his wife to Paris for Valentine’s Day to recover from the stress of going through a false-claims suit. Good for him and for everyone who refuses to tolerate unethical behavior.