Two Johnson County chiropractors accused by the federal government of defrauding Medicare have settled the case for $350,000.
The payment ends a civil lawsuit alleging that Ryan Schell and Tyler Schell, who are brothers, billed Medicare for peripheral neuropathy treatments not covered by the program or for treatments they did not provide at all.
Peripheral neuropathy, which is often caused by diabetes, is a condition that causes burning, stabbing or tingling pain, usually in the hands and feet.
The brothers operated Kansas City Health & Wellness Clinic in Lenexa, Kansas, which is now closed. As part of the settlement agreement, the Schells and their clinic denied wrongdoing.
The government sued the Schells and their clinic in December, accusing them of racking up more than $467,000 in fraudulent billings between October 2011 and December 2013. The lawsuit sought triple damages under the federal False Claims Act, which would have amounted to more than $1.4 million.
The Schells incorporated their clinic in 2008 under the name Spine & Sport Rehabilitation, according to records on file with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. The clinic forfeited its corporate status in 2016 after failing to file an annual report.
The Schells, who are in their early 40s, received their chiropractic degrees from Cleveland Chiropractic College in 2016. They could not be reached for comment. Their attorney, Marilyn Keller, said she did not know if they were still practicing.
The government’s lawsuit alleged the Schells charged Medicare for procedures that weren’t medically necessary, not actually provided or not covered by Medicare. The procedures included nerve conduction tests, nerve block injections, ultrasonic guidance and treatments using vasopneumatic devices.
Medicare only pays for chiropractic treatments involving manual manipulation. It does not cover diagnostic services such as X-rays or other therapeutic services provided by chiropractors.
Similar Medicare fraud charges involving purported treatments for neuropathy have been leveled in recent years against at least two other Kansas chiropractors and one Kansas City, Missouri, chiropractor.
In 2017, Brian Schnitta and his clinic, Natural Way Chiropractic Center, agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle such claims. The clinic had offices in Overland Park and Lenexa, Kansas, and in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
And in 2014, Jeffrey Fenn of Wichita, Kansas, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of more than $1.8 million for billing Medicare for neuropathy treatments. Fenn operated Wichita Health and Wellness, Fenn Chiropractic and Wichita Pain Associates.
Also in 2014, Michael Kelly Miller, the one-time owner of Waldo Rehabilitation Health & Wellness in Kansas City, pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare of more than $3 million.
Miller admitted that between February 2009 and December 2011, he submitted claims for nerve block injections to treat neuropathy. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $880,000 in restitution.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.