New Regulations a Pain in the Neck for Chiropractic 'Runners'

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014 12:00 am  

Chiropractor Heath Lenox used runner Roger Pleasant and his companies to persuade auto accident victims to come to Lenox’s clinic in Little Rock. Lenox stopped using Pleasant and his companies on June 25. | (Photo by Mark Friedman)

For more than a decade, the chiropractic association has been trying to limit chiropractors’ use of runners. But opponents faced a huge hurdle: a 2001 state Supreme Court ruling that said regulation limiting chiropractors’ use of a telemarketing firm to attract clients was “an unconstitutional infringement on commercial speech, in violation of the First Amendment.”

Other attempts to stop the runners also failed. In the 2011 legislative session, a bill that would have placed a 60-day waiting period on a medical provider’s use of information from police reports for the purpose of selling a service failed to get out of committee.

But Wills was able to push through Act 513 in 2013. While the legislation doesn’t limit the use of runners, it requires them to register with the Chiropractic Board. As of last week, 68 procurers were registered.

The legislation also allows the board to regulate the procurers, authority the board did not previously have, which made it difficult to prove that a runner had been paid by a particular chiropractor.

With the new law, Wills said, a paper trail is established between the doctor and the procurer.

“If a complaint is brought, that should help build a case against someone who is being a bad actor,” Wills said.

Lawyer Perceives Fraud

The difficulty of proving which runner was employed by which chiropractor was highlighted in a complaint filed by Bill Wharton of Conway, a staff attorney for the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department, against Sherwood chiropractor Mark Varley.

The board held a hearing on his complaint on April 17, and it opened a window into the world of chiropractors and runners.

Wharton testified that he was in an auto accident on Dec. 3, 2012, eight months before the registration regulations took effect. The next day, Wharton received a call at work from a woman who said she represented the insurance company for the other driver. She told Wharton that the other driver’s insurer was accepting liability for the accident, but she wanted to make sure that he was not injured. She directed him to Varley’s clinic, so Wharton went there that day.

Only after he received a bill from his insurance carrier did Wharton realize that something “fraudulent had occurred,” he told the board. He said he was lied to by the woman who called him.

After Wharton complained, Varley wrote off the bill. Wharton filed the complaint anyway under the assumption that the caller worked for Varley.



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