By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
NASHVILLE — Tennessee officials say James Bond is on a mission to obtain something he’s not supposed to have.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, the federal government seems neither shaken nor stirred, and isn’t helping state authorities do anything to stop him.
Unlike the famed 007 character, this Bond — James Jeffrey Bond — lives in Gallatin, and his alleged quest is far less romantic than anything Ian Fleming ever imagined.
Sumner County officials arrested Bond, 30, on charges of fraudulently obtaining painkillers such as Tramadol, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone through doctor shopping using benefits from TennCare, Tennessee’s version of Medicaid.
James Jeffrey Bond, who allegedly used TennCare benefits to go doctor shopping for controlled substances.
Doctor shopping generally involves going to several doctors in a short period of time to obtain controlled substances.
Authorities arrested Bond one year ago on similar charges. Bond was on probation from the previous charge, and his parole was revoked, said Tennessee Office of Inspector General spokeswoman Lola Potter in a statement Monday.
Tennessee officials want the right to deny TennCare benefits to Bond and other people convicted of repeatedly committing fraud within that particular program, but they say they can’t because the feds refuse to permit it.
The federal government, Potter told Tennessee Watchdog, prohibits all states from denying benefits for people who are eligible for Medicaid on the basis of fraud or theft against Medicaid.
“To do that, federal law would need to be changed,” Potter said.
“In fact, the state has made requests for the authority to prohibit individuals convicted of TennCare fraud from remaining on the program. However, those requests were not approved.”
Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services didn’t immediately return a message seeking explanation Monday.
Potter said state OIG officials do have some clout.
“When cases are settled, the OIG is able to offer, in exchange for a plea, the defendant’s self-withdrawal from Medicaid and/or an agreement that the defendant will never again be able to enroll in the TennCare program.”
As reported last week, Knox County grand jurors recently indicted Nancy Elaine Horsley, 47, on three counts of doctor shopping to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances, using TennCare benefits. Knox County officials have arrested Horsley on charges of committing these crimes repeatedly since 2011.
Potter said people arrested on such crimes generally have substance abuse problems or abuse the system for their own personal gain.
Could state officials save taxpayers’ some money, perhaps, by helping these people with their alleged substance problems?
Potter would only say that impatient and outpatient substance abuse services are available through TennCare when medically necessary.
“Clearly, sentencing for repeat offenders can be stronger than sentencing for first-time offenders, and the OIG tries to obtain heftier sentences, fines and optional punishment such as having the defendant ask TennCare to remove them from the program,” Potter said.
Fraud involving TennCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, is a huge problem, Tennessee officials say.
Doctor shopping using TennCare, where an enrollee pays for a clinical visit or a medication, is a Class E felony punishable by up to two years in jail. Doctor shopping for a non-TennCare recipient is a Class E misdemeanor.
Abuse of prescription pain relievers is the number one drug problem for Tennesseans receiving state-funded substance abuse treatment services, Potter said.
Contact Christopher Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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