ST. LOUIS — A Kansas anesthesiologist has been indicted in federal court in St. Louis and accused of defrauding insurance companies with a multimillion-dollar telemedicine fraud.
Dr. Scott Taggart Roethle, of the Kansas City suburb of Leawood, pleaded not guilty Monday via Zoom to one felony count of conspiracy and 24 counts of health care fraud.
The indictment claims that Roethle and others received illegal kickbacks for ordering unnecessary orthotic braces, genetic tests and pain creams for patients. Roethle is accused in the indictment of receiving $674,000 in kickbacks from six companies.
“We deny the allegations and will vigorously defend this matter,” said one of his lawyers, Neil Bruntrager, in a text message responding to a request for comment.
The indictment says Roethle partnered with at least nine telemedicine companies that offered orthotic braces and other services at no cost in TV and online ads. Some telemarketers also cold-called prospective patients. Call center employees were not medically qualified to assess patients, the indictment says, and in some cases pressured patients to exaggerate their symptoms.
Patient and insurance information was then sent to doctors, who signed off on treatment without talking to the patients or assessing their medical needs in almost all cases, the indictment says.
Between October 2017 and April 2019, Roethle fraudulently ordered knee braces for about 3,500 patients, the indictment says. The companies were paid $2.9 million by Medicare, the indictment says.
Medicare requires that doctors do an in-person exam, including two knee function tests, before prescribing a knee brace, the indictment says.
Roethle ordered genetic tests for patients without establishing whether they were necessary to diagnose or treat a specific illness, as required by law, the indictment says. Medicare paid $18.2 million for genetic tests signed off on by Roethle, it says.
Roethle also ordered medically unnecessary topical creams for 206 patients, including 56 in the St. Louis area, who had never heard of Roethle and did not request or need the creams, the indictment says, costing Medicare $365,606.
One of the companies listed in the indictment, MC Medical Supply of Cape Girardeau, was being run by Brandy McKay at the time. McKay pleaded guilty in October to health care fraud and other charges and admitted submitting false reimbursement claims on items prescribed by Roethle and five other medical providers. A Georgia doctor, Milagros Rivera, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in 2019 and was fined $5,500 and ordered to repay $81,360. A nurse practitioner, Donna Gill, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau to a year in prison and ordered to repay $23.8 million after admitting she participated in the kickback scheme.