Hamblen County Woman Charged with TennCare Drug Fraud

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 | 2:45pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A woman in upper east Tennessee is charged with doctor shopping for prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment for the pills. Doctor shopping involves going to multiple doctors in a short period of time to obtain prescription drugs from each of them.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the arrest of Melissa G. Howard, 31, of Talbott in Hamblen County. She is charged with doctor shopping for the painkillers Hydrocodone and Tramadol, which are both opioids, using TennCare as payment. She is charged with four counts of TennCare fraud by doctor shopping.

"The fraudulent misuse of prescription drugs is simply no longer being tolerated by communities and citizens, and we´re working to eradicate it from TennCare," Inspector General Manny Tyndall said. "When we stop just one person from committing this crime, we’re preserving TennCare dollars for another person who legitimately needs healthcare insurance benefits.”

District Attorney General Dan E. Armstrong is prosecuting. TennCare fraud is a Class D felony punishable by up to four years in prison per charge.

The OIG, which is separate from TennCare, began full operation in February 2005 and has investigated cases leading to more than $3 million being repaid to TennCare, with a total estimated cost avoidance of more than $163.6 million for TennCare, according to latest figures. To date, 2,879 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 visit the website and follow the prompts that read “Report TennCare Fraud.”

TennCare Fraud