There’s a new task force riding into Texas. According to The Texas Tribune, the Texas Attorney General’s (AG) Office and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) have teamed up to increase investigations of fraud in the state’s Medicaid dental program for children. The article, published on October 10, 2012, states the creation of the Medicaid and orthodontic task force was created in response to a significant increase in fraud by Medicaid providers.
Everything is Bigger in Texas, Including Fraud.
A report released in April 2012, by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, stated that in 2010 the Lone Star State spent as much on orthodontic services as every other state in the U.S. combined. In the report the state said the reason fraud was so widespread is that the organization the state hired to assess prior authorization forms was “rubber stamping” the forms for approval.
Patient Recruiting Contributing to Medicaid Fraud Problems.
An announcement on the Texas HHSC OIG website stated Texas authorities have found that some dental clinics hired representatives to stand outside retail and grocery stores and hand out gift cards in exchange for signing up for a “free” dental exam. The Inspector General said offering incentives to Medicaid clients is illegal. Those caught can be fined up to $10,000 per violation.
Crackdown Leaving Dentists Uneasy.
The task force and the overall crackdown on dentists and orthodontists have limited the number of dental professionals willing to take referrals for Medicaid patients. In The Texas Tribune article, the HSSC warns orthodontic providers that the Texas dental board can suspend or revoke their license for abandoning Medicaid patients.
Having a license suspended or revoked is an entirely different and very serious issue.
However, patient abandonment is very narrowly defined in the law and is difficult to prove.
What many state Medicaid regulatory authorities fail to appreciate is that indentured servitude is illegal in the United States. They seem to believe that if the professional is dumb enough to sign up for the Medicaid program, then he or she is dumb enough to be forced to provide services without pay or to be forced to see patients they don’t want to.
This may be largely an idle threat, however. I myself have had several articles published in major healthcare publications regarding what is and isn’t “patient abandonment.” Lay people and investigators bandy the term about figuring it will strike fear into the hearts of physicians (and often it does).
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Handling Medicaid Audits.
Medicaid fraud is a serious crime and is vigorously investigated by the state MFCU, the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), the Zone Program Integrity Contractors (ZPICs), the FBI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Often other state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), and other law enforcement agencies participate. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are concerned of any possible violations and would like a confidential consultation, contact a qualified health attorney familiar with medical billing and audits today. Often Medicaid fraud criminal charges arise out of routine Medicaid audits, probe audits, or patient complaints.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, assisted living facilities (AFLs), home health care agencies, nursing homes, group homes and other healthcare providers in Medicaid and Medicare investigations, audits and recovery actions.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
What do you think of the new task force? Do you think it will help put a stop to Medicaid dental fraud? Is Medicaid dental fraud a problem in your state? Should providers be charged with “patient abandonment” for not treating Medicaid patients? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Aaronson, Becca. “Joint Task Force Tackles Medicaid Dental Fraud.” The Texas Tribune. (October 10, 2012). From: http://www.texastribune.org/texas-health-resources/medicaid/joint-task-force-tackles-medicaid-dental-fraud/
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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