At one point in time, not too long ago, the term “telemedicine” was somewhat of a foreign one. However, the onset of the pandemic made it necessary for medical practitioners to communicate with their patients by means other than in person. Telemedicine refers to video conferences or phone calls between patients and their health care providers. These days, it is common for doctors to conduct appointments using their computers or smartphones.
“With telemedicine, you don’t have to drive to the doctor’s office or clinic, park, walk or sit in a waiting room when you’re sick,” explains Dr. Brian William Hasselfeld for Johns Hopkins, “You can see your doctor from the comfort of your own bed or sofa. Virtual visits can be easier to fit into your busy schedule. With telemedicine, depending on your schedule, you may not even have to take leave time from work or arrange for child care.”
Virginia-based nurse practitioner pleads guilty to telemedicine fraud scheme.
As reported by the District of Massachusetts branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, this past Monday, 64 year-old, Daphne Jenkins pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. She entered her guilty plea in a Boston federal court, admitting to her participation in a $7.8 million fraud scheme. It involved both the use of telemedicine and medically unnecessary durable medical equipment (DME). They included orthotics such as back and knee braces.
According to Medicare, DME is defined as equipment that is durable (meaning it can withstand repeated use); used for a medical reason; typically only useful to someone who is sick or injured; used in your home; and expected to last at least three years.
Between December 2018 and April 2020, Jenkins worked with a telemedicine company. During her tenure there, she signed orders for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment. Jenkins’ signed orders were pre-populated based on telemarketing calls made to Medicare beneficiaries. Meanwhile, she never had any contact with the beneficiaries herself. She didn’t even have medical relationships with any of the beneficiaries.
Jenkins admitted to generally signing orders without even reading them.
“Once Jenkins signed these orders, the telemarketing company sold the orders to DME suppliers and laboratories, which then submitted claims to Medicare,” informs the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports, “As a result of Jenkins’ participation in this conspiracy, over $7.8 million in claims were submitted to Medicare for DME that was medically unnecessary, based on false documentation, and tainted by kickbacks.”
Jenkins faces a sentence of up to ten years in prison for the charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. She is also facing up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greater.
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