How did this dental scam end?
Posted February 05, 2019 11:11:55As a dentist who regularly works with children in Florida, I was shocked to learn last week that the dental practice I’d worked for for for five years in North Florida was in a total meltdown.
It had become so unsafe that I couldn’t even come back.
And it was all because of a little-known, but highly dangerous, health care fraud scheme.
Dentists, medical providers and other health care workers who have worked for Florida health care providers for years are known as dental interns.
The practice is a highly regulated industry that is subject to state and federal regulation, and the government pays for dental work to prevent the spread of dental disease.
But a group of dentists, dental interns and the state of Florida sued to try and overturn those regulations.
The state and its attorneys general filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge to block the lawsuit from going forward because of the state’s “unusual and substantial” financial resources.
It also argues that because the lawsuit is based on the fraud, it should be barred from being heard.
“It’s a very dangerous situation where there’s so much money being made,” said Jennifer Ahern, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the case.
“This is a very, very big issue.”
In January, the state issued a cease-and-desist order requiring dental interns to immediately stop performing dental work or risk losing their licenses.
But the lawsuit alleges that the state and the dentists are using that order to hide the fact that the dentistry has no teeth and doesn’t care about patients’ dental health.
“We’re just trying to keep this in the family,” said Ahern.
She said that since she joined the practice in 2016, the number of patients she treated with non-dental care has skyrocketed.
She said that as a result, her team of seven dentists has grown to 12.
“There are about 1,000 people a year who come to us for treatment,” she said.
The lawsuit alleges the dental interns’ practice is “the largest single employer in Florida,” and that dentists working for the dentist have made “significant amounts of money.”
The lawsuit also alleges that in 2015, a dentist working for Dentist Services Florida was paid $4,000 per year.
In a letter to the state, Dentist Service Florida’s CEO, Richard Moseley, said that dentist interns “make up a large percentage of our work force.”
“Dentist interns are the only type of employee we have,” Mosely wrote.
“They do most of our dental work, which includes cleaning, performing maintenance and maintaining the health and safety of our patients.”
According to a recent study by the University of Miami School of Medicine, more than half of all dental interns in Florida work in a health care industry that receives federal funds.
And the study also found that dentistry internships have an average salary of $16,848 a year.
Florida health care professionals are exempt from federal health care regulations, and therefore are exempt under state laws.
That means they are allowed to charge patients as little as $300 per visit for dental care and can charge as much as $600 for an appointment.
But in addition to being exempt, dentists and dental interns have no obligation to disclose their practice to state officials.
The dentists suing the state are representing a small group of dental interns, and they are seeking to have the case dismissed.
They argue that the practice should be required to report to state regulators and to provide “dental records, patient information and other relevant documents” in response to an order to stop performing dentistry.
But attorneys for the state said in court documents that they don’t need to disclose any of that information.
“The state of FL cannot compel the dental association to disclose records, records that are protected by law, such as patient information, as it is not required to do so by Florida law,” attorneys wrote in the motion.
The case will go to trial in March.