BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's office filed a lawsuit against an orthodontist who is accused of using "young patients as pawns to steal millions of dollars" by keeping children in braces for longer than medically necessary.
According to Healey, Dr. Mouhab Rizkallah fraudulently submitted millions of dollars in false claims to MassHealth. In addition to keeping children in braces for too long, Rizkallah is also accused of deceptively billing for mouthguards.
Rizkallah owns and operates six orthodontist practices in Massachusetts that do businesses as "The Braces Place." There are locations in Somerville, Boston, Lawrence, Lowell Framingham and Lynn.
The investigation began with a patient complaint. Healey's office alleges that Rizkallah, through two companies, instituted illegal policies and practices since November 2013.
For his MassHealth patients, who were mostly children, Rizkallah allegedly would often put braces only on their top teeth, even when there was no reason not to also put braces on the bottom teeth. Healey said this "significantly extended" treatment time and increased the amount of money collected from MassHealth.
Rizkallah is also accused of billing MassHealth for custom-fitted mouth guards even when the patient didn't request, need, or receive them. Mouth guards that were given to patients often were from retail stores with a value of $9.99.
Staff members were ordered to cut the price off packaging before patients received the mouth guards, Healey alleges. Rizkallah would bill MassHealth $85-$95 for each mouth guard. In total, Rizkallah's practices billed MassHealth more than $1 million for the mouth guards.
"For years, this orthodontist used his young patients as pawns to steal millions of dollars from the state," Healey said. "This illegal behavior harmed families from low-income communities and communities of color who rely on MassHealth for health care coverage. We are suing to hold Dr. Rizkallah accountable for these exploitative practices that victimized vulnerable residents in Massachusetts."
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