Indicted dentists say restrictions hurt needy patients

Six Texas dentists who are facing Medicaid fraud charges are seeking to remove restrictions barring them from treating Medicaid patients, saying the shortage of dentists in their area is hurting poor and underserved patients.

Gary Morgan Schwarz, D.D.S., who operates the Valley Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in McAllen, is accused of conspiring with Renee L. Thornton, his office manager, and Magdalena Garza Cazares, his treatment coordinator and personal assistant, to file fraudulent Medicaid claims from January 2007 through April 2010, the Texas Attorney General's office said.

Five other dentists allegedly involved with Dr. Schwarz in a related kickback scheme -- State Rep. Tara Rios Ybarra, who owns a dental practice in Brownsville; Willis David Egger, D.D.S.; Diana Paparelli, D.D.S.; and Colbert Glenn, D.D.S., all of McAllen; and Reynaldo Casares, D.D.S., of Mission -- were also arrested. They were charged with multiple counts of illegally referring Medicaid beneficiaries to Dr. Schwarz in exchange for 15% of the total payment made by Medicaid to Dr. Schwarz for all referred beneficiaries.

After their arrest in June, a judge barred all six dentists from treating Medicaid patients for their alleged part in the $62,000 fraud scheme.

But barring the dentists from treating Medicaid patients could lead to a local shortage of qualified dental specialists and hurt the very people prosecutors hope to protect, said David Botsford, an attorney representing Dr. Glenn, according to a story in the Monitor.

Botsford asked a judge to allow the dentists to resume Medicaid billings as long as they stopped referring patients to Dr. Schwarz.

Dr. Schwarz, Thornton, and Cazares face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on charges of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The five referring dentists face charges of giving or receiving kickbacks, punishable by up to five years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

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