September 12, 2012 — The Small Smiles chain of dental clinics, owned by Church Street Health Management, closed earlier this year when the chain filed for bankruptcy amid accusations of dental Medicaid fraud. Now one Small Smiles dental clinic located in Syracuse, NY, has been reopened under new management. Local dentist Michael Wilson, DDS, the owner of Wilson Dental, will operate the clinic with a completely new staff, reports Dr. Bicuspid.
Small Smiles Dental Chain Declared Bankruptcy Amid Medicaid Fraud Allegations.
Small Smiles has had its share of legal battles. In addition to its bankruptcy, alleged Medicaid fraud has drawn the attention of federal authorities. The Syracuse dental clinic has also been sued by a group of ten families who say that their children, some quite young, received serious dental work — such as root canals and extractions — without the benefit of sedation or general anesthesia. Instead, the children were allegedly restrained, increasing their trauma but also speeding up dental care so that more patients could be seen and more bills could be submitted to Medicaid faster.
When the Syracuse Small Smiles dental clinic closed, Dr. Wilson saw many more children coming to his dental clinic for treatment. So many young patients were seeking appointments that the wait time for a new patient was three months, and some patients were driving as much as 70 miles to his clinic. He decided that reopening the Small Smiles facility would allow him to provide better treatment for these children.
When Dr. Wilson bought the old Small Smiles clinic, he was very cautious about any perceived association with the Small Smiles chain. He would not accept patient records from Small Smiles, and he hired none of the former Small Smiles employees. Dr. Wilson has already opened his new facility in the former Small Smiles clinic space. The clinic is currently staffed by a pediatric dentist, a pediatric anesthesiologist, and an oral surgeon.
Whistleblowers Might Have Headed Off Worse Harms of Dental Medicaid Fraud.
The Small Smiles dental clinics allegedly were involved in a widespread dental Medicaid fraud scheme that paralleled Medicaid fraud being committed by a number of other dental chains and private dentists and orthodontists from all over the country. Allegations that these dental clinics performed painful, unnecessary procedures, used physical restraint on small children, and bilked Medicaid out of millions of dollars has caused a number of national dental chains and private dentists to close up shop. Several of these chains operated as mobile dental clinics that found patients inside public schools.
Such pervasive and damaging fraud might not have continued so long had a whistleblower, even one, stepped forward to reveal what he or she knew. Whistleblowers who know what is happening from the inside can be the best and earliest source of information about fraud and the best hope we have of stopping the wrongdoers before more harm is done. In the Small Smiles case, far more was at stake than alleged financial fraud.
Because we need whistleblowers to come forward and help authorities stop Medicaid and Medicare fraud, the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act allow individuals to file a lawsuit addressing the fraud on behalf of the government. The whistleblowers are then entitled to share in a portion of any recovery.
If you know about ongoing fraud against the government, your help is important to stopping the fraud. Find out about your rights under the False Claims Act by speaking to one of the experienced and highly skilled whistleblower attorneys at Waters & Kraus. The law firm has qui tam attorneys working in four different locations across the country: Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Baltimore. Contact us or call our whistleblower attorneys at 800.226.9880 to learn more about our practice and how we can assist.