(WMC TV) - For the second time in three years, The Action News 5 Investigators have caught a licensed chiropractor culling patients from auto accident reports in violation of Tennessee medical rules.
The violation, insurance experts said, can directly impact auto insurance premiums.
Travis Shackelford and Jesi Bynum -- both of Southaven, MS -- said an agent for Dr. Jared Hathaway of Kirby Physiotherapy, 3558 Kirby Parkway in Hickory Hill, solicited them by phone less than 48 hours after they suffered a motorcycle accident in Downtown Memphis. Neither Shackelford nor Bynum was hurt.
"The guy said he was with the 'Tennessee Advocacy Board,'" said Shackelford, "making it sound like it was some sort of government agency."
There is no such thing as the 'Tennessee Advocacy Board.'
"That should have been my clue," Shackelford answered.
Another clue should have been the quality of care they said they received from Hathaway at his clinic.
"I sat down on the table, and he said, 'You're going to need physical therapy. I can tell that right now.' I'm like, 'You didn't even look at my foot,'" said Bynum.
Both said Hathaway and his staff placed them on a table with rollers that massaged their backs. That was it. They said Hathaway requested they schedule more appointments.
"It was not legitimate to me," said Bynum.
"It was pretty shady," added Shackelford.
Insurance agent Bennita Wade said Hathaway is one of several Mid-South chiropractors who are running patient mills. She said they have "runners" pull the public records of accident reports, then either the chiropractors themselves or their agents telemarket the drivers listed "not at fault" on the reports.
"They bill the insurance company (of the "at fault" driver)," said Wade. "It most certainly is insurance fraud. You're not hurt, but you're going to get treatment.
"This drives up insurance premiums exponentially."
As much as $150 on a 6-month premium, Wade said.
Rule 0260-02-20(6) of Tennessee's General Rules Governing Chiropractic Examiners states "...telemarketing or telephonic solicitations by licensees, their employees, or agents to victims of accidents or disaster shall be considered unethical if carried out within thirty (30) days of the accident or disaster..."
"It is insurance fraud," said Dr. Richard Cole, the author of the telemarketing rule and a sitting member of the Tennessee Board of Chiropractic Examiners. "(But) if there are no complaints, then we don't have anything to work with."
Cole said accidents victims solicited by chiropractors rarely file complaints with the board. Those who do, he added, often slip through the fingers of 17 state investigators tasked to investigate all of the state's regulated medical professions.
"The investigation division is extremely busy, trying to prioritize the complaints and get after them," he said, "and I think telemarketing might not fall as high on the list of priorities as impaired physicians would be."
Three years ago, an accident victim filed a telemarketing complaint with the board against Whitehaven chiropractor Dr. Adam Coates. Records indicated the board never disciplined Coates for the violation (for our investigation of Coates, click here).
The Action News 5 Investigators filed an open records request for the disposition of the Coates complaint. Shelley L. Walker, assistant director of communications and media relations for the Tennessee Department of Health, replied, "We are prohibited from disclosing information from investigation files that have not had formal charges filed on a case."
"(Coates) just failed to renew his license," said Cole. "I think you got to him before we could get to him."
Board records further revealed only one chiropractor has been disciplined for violating the telemarketing rule since 2004.
Hathaway would not comment for this story. Records revealed he has never been disciplined for telemarketing violations, but in 2009, the board cited him because he "...has failed to properly maintain or submit sufficient continuing education credits."
Consumers who are solicited by chiropractors after an accident should report the call immediately to the appropriate state regulatory board: