A woman in Lincoln County is charged for the third time for TennCare “doctor shopping”, which is the crime of going from doctor to doctor in a short period of time to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances.
The Office of Inspector General announced the arrest of 32-year-old Amber L. Watkins. A Giles County Grand Jury charged her with “doctor shopping” for the strong sleeping medication Ambien and using TennCare to pay for either the clinical visit or the prescription.
Watkins was just arrested last month in Williamson County for three counts of “doctor shopping” for the same sleeping medication, along with the powerful pain reliever Hydrocodone. She’s accused of using TennCare benefits to pay for the prescriptions.
Watkins’ first TennCare fraud arrest was in November of last year, when a Lincoln County indictment charged her with three counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and “doctor shopping” for the strong pain medication Percocet, along with Ambien and the anti-anxiety medication Alprazolam.
“Using any two of the drugs involved in this case at the same time could have very serious side effects and should not be used without strict physician oversight, if at all,” Inspector General Deborah Y. Faulkner said. “This kind of activity is a serious threat to our communities, and we’re intent on eliminating it in the TennCare program.”
TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison. District Attorney General Mike Bottoms will be prosecuting the Giles County case.
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 $13 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”.