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Podiatry clinic chain in St. Louis settles Medicare fraud charges over toenail clippings

Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in News & Features

ST. LOUIS -- Foot Healers podiatry clinics in St. Louis settled with the federal government for $125,000 for Medicare fraud on false claims from 2010 to 2016.

The clinics knowingly billed Medicare for medically necessary toenail removals, when the services provided were routine nail clippings that are not covered by the government insurance program for people older than 65 and others with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"After becoming aware almost five years ago of some billing errors, we successfully worked with the government to correct this. At all times we have been, and remain in good standing with Medicare. We appreciate that the government worked constructively and cooperatively with us to resolve this matter," John Murray, president of Foot Healers, said in a statement.

The podiatry clinic has six locations in the St. Louis area.

Under the settlement, Foot Healers will repay the government $125,000 for the false claims. The company also signed a three-year agreement with the government for extra oversight in its compliance with Medicare regulations.

The U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Missouri announced the settlement on Monday.

Toenail care for older Americans is a common source of Medicare fraud. About one-fourth of the podiatry services paid out by Medicare are for nail debridement (removal of a diseased toenail), according to a 2002 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General.

The investigation found that nearly one-fourth of the nail debridements paid out by Medicare were not justified medically, for an estimated $51.2 million in inappropriate payments in 2000. An additional $45.6 million was paid out in unnecessary related services, according to the report.

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