When it comes to fraud, it’s all about remaining undetected. To stay under the radar for as long as possible, fraud schemes require a bit of creativity. One such scheme is the Foot Bath scam, in which drug suppliers are being reimbursed thousands of dollars for the equivalent of a $25 pedicure from the nail salon down the street.
The Foot Bath scam is currently targeting Medicare beneficiaries with various foot conditions including diabetic ulcers, bone infections, ingrown toenails, and cellulitis. Pharmacy owners and drug suppliers use telemarketing campaigns or online questionnaires to connect with these beneficiaries, who are rarely seeing a doctor in these scenarios. Once the drug supplier has enough medical and Medicare billing information, the beneficiaries are signed up for the foot bath service. They are prescribed a cocktail of expensive drugs including vancomycin, enconazole cream, and lidocaine that (without Medicare’s knowledge) they are instructed to mix into a foot bath. In most scenarios, the drugs are auto-shipped to them with no way to opt out. This service costs on average $8,000 per month.
Not only are these foot baths ineffective, but some of the medications aren’t even water soluble. On top of that, the foot baths are currently being condemned by Medicare for causing further infection and drug resistance. Needless to say, these baths are not medically necessary and are not covered by Medicare.
While the baths are clearly useless, crooked doctors and pharmacists are continuing to prescribe them for the payout. Nathan Lucas, a podiatrist and pharmacy owner in Memphis, Tennessee was recently charged with health care fraud after submitting nearly $4 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and TennCare since 2018. If convicted, Nathan Lucas faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
Carey Williams, another podiatrist and pharmacy owner in Mississippi, has also recently been charged with prescribing expensive medications for use in a foot bath. In addition to running the foot bath scheme, Williams is also being accused of ordering unnecessary diagnostic testing on patients’ toe nails. Since 2016, Williams has submitted over $4.9 million in claims for the prescribed foot baths, as well as an additional $6.4 million in claims for the unnecessary diagnostic testing. Williams is facing decades of prison time due to the various counts of fraud he is accused of.
Medicare fraud may impact more vulnerable groups in the population, but healthcare fraud can affect anyone and everyone. It is important to stay educated on how to detect, prevent and report fraud. After all, something as simple as a nice warm foot bath can be hiding millions of dollars of damage under the surface.
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