San Diego Federal Court saw a nurse plead guilty this week to a fraud scam which milked government officials of over 65-million USD. The nurse in question, Candace M. Craven worked with members of the U.S. military, offering what she called, “telemedicine” through Tricare. Ms. Craven, who is 52 years old and resides in California, admitted that she never properly evaluated or met with any of the patients she treated, but still provided them with prescription medication.
Telemedicine, or eHealth, is the availability of distance medical assistance via email, online video chat, and similar technology based communication methods. It’s been around since the 60’s, used originally to treat astronauts in the United States NASA projects. Now, telemedicine offers online physicians to patients in rural areas, or those who are too ill to leave home. It has also become something of a convenience factor for patients who are unable to take time off work for lengthy appointments, and those who wish to avoid wait-times in walk-in clinics.
While telemedicine is a real help to some, it can be misused, which seems to be the issue in Ms. Craven’s case. The nurse not only diagnosed and treated patients’ sight unseen, but charged exorbitant amounts of money for medication, which was then paid by Tricare. Craven lured military members, mostly marines and their loved ones, with a team involved in this scam. Those who signed up for the online medical help received special medication which was covered by Tricare, with additional funds pocketed by the fraudulent medical team.
Ms. Craven is known for her work with Choice MD, a medical clinic based out of Tennessee. The clinic backed the plan, even going so far as to voice phone calls to Tricare on behalf of the patients. Choice MD physicians then signed off on any medication being prescribed and the military members and their families received their prescriptions through pharmacies which were then sent the prescriptions.
Tricare doesn’t reimburse patients for compounded medications. They used to reimburse for this type of medicine but stopped in 2015. Now, patients must use standardized medications under specific government regulations. Choice MD used customized medication, or compounded medication, to save a buck and pocket a profit. The amount of money is question is a total of $65,679,512, of which was received for more than 4 thousand prescriptions signed off for by Choice MD.
It seems that it wasn’t just Ms. Craven and Choice MD alone who are facing penalties for their roles in the medical fraud. A San Diego marine named Josh Morgan is also being penalized for his role in the debacle, along with Choice MD professionals, Dr. Vergot and Dr. Lindblad.
This case is still pending, with charges laid not but yet certified. If proven guilty, Craven and her cohorts will face 10-years minimum behind bars, along with some hefty fines. This comes at a time when San Diego is seeing a lot of turmoil within the nursing community due to poor working conditions and underpay. MS. Craven’s part in the scandal shines a dim light on the nursing community in California at a time when they need the public’s help.