A Lincoln County woman is charged in an indictment with TennCare fraud involving “doctor shopping,” which is the crime of using TennCare healthcare insurance benefits to go to multiple doctors in a short period of time to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced the arrest of Amber L. Watkins, also known as Amber Howard, 24, of Dellrose. She is charged with fraudulently obtaining controlled substances by “doctor shopping,” and three counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.
An indictment says Watkins used TennCare to fraudulently obtain the prescription drugs Alprazolam, which is used to treat anxiety, along with the anti-insomnia medication Zolidem and the strong pain medication Percocet.
“Unauthorized use of TennCare to obtain prescription drugs is a serious crime we are pursuing every day across the state,” Inspector General Deborah Faulkner said.
“The Office of Inspector General is committed to ensuring TennCare benefits are not abused in this manner so that we preserve the program for people seeking legitimate treatment.”
TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years per charge in prison. District Attorney General Robert Carter is prosecuting.
The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to over $3.5 million paid in restitution and recoupment to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of over $173 million for the TennCare program, according to latest figures. To date, over 1,700 people have been charged with TennCare fraud.
Through the OIG Cash for Tips Program established by the Legislature, Tennesseans can get cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions. Anyone can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll-free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to www.tn.gov/tnoig and follow the prompts that read “Report TennCare Fraud.”