Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Morning Drill: April 24, 2012

Dr. Hamada Makarita

Good Tuesday Morning!

On to today's dentistry headlines:

Accused Dentist Says Witness Is Fired Employee

An Oakton dentist accused of illegally acquiring narcotic painkillers says one of the case's witnesses is his practice's former office manager whom he fired after she embezzled from the practice two years ago, according to court documents.

Dr. Hamada Makarita terminated Karen Derder's employment at his dentistry practice in Oakton on April 15, 2010, after discovering she had engaged in insurance fraud and embezzled more than $50,000 from his 401(k) over five years, according to an affidavit from the defense's private investigator filed April 19.

According to the documents, Makarita filed a report with the FBI after finding discrepancies in an audit he conducted of his business in April 2010. He also contacted the Fairfax County Police Department about the issue in May 2010.

No federal charges have been brought against Derder.

The office manager had previously worked for Makarita and was fired for insurance fraud in 1993. Derder, who went by the name of Karen Crowe at the time, was also convicted of forgery and uttering in the Culpeper County Circuit Court in 1991. Makarita and Derder reconciled and she was rehired in 1997.

The private detective's affidavit was filed in support of the defense's argument that Makarita is not a flight risk and therefore should retain travel privileges. On Thursday, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria upheld a decision earlier this month to allow Makarita to travel to Canada to receive an award.

Makarita, 50, was arrested March 15 for illegally acquiring narcotic painkillers over a three-year stretch during which he took explicit photos of women to whom he had provided the drugs, according to federal prosecutors.

VIDEO: Rapping dentists – would this get you to floss?

Access Dental execs: State oversight needed to improve Sacramento's managed program

Recent media coverage of Sacramento County's failed dental program for poor children has sparked intense outcry, with elected officials and children's advocates leveling some of their harshest criticism at dental plans.

Executives for one of those plans, Access Dental, offered their views of the controversy in an in-depth interview with the CHCF Center for Health Reporting.

Their plan participates in Sacramento County's unusual mandatory managed care program. The state pays Access Dental a monthly fee – currently about $11.50 – for each child on Medi-Cal assigned to the program under managed care.

The fee is paid regardless of whether the child actually sees a dentist.

In contrast, most other Medi-Cal dental programs in the state are "fee-for-service," with dentists paid for each visit they report.

The results under managed care have not been good, state data show.

Less than a third of Sacramento County children with Medi-Cal saw a dentist in fiscal 2010-11, compared with nearly half of children on Medi-Cal statewide. In some cases, as described in a CHCF Center for Health Reporting story published in February in The Bee, children had to wait months to be seen and treated for painful, rotted or broken teeth.

In Sacramento County, Access Dental provides coverage to 33,000 participants up to age 21, about a third of the total number of enrollees in the county. State data show that 33 percent of Access Dental's Sacramento County members saw a dentist in fiscal 2010-11.

Big money, TV ads put N.C. dental bill in the spotlight

The TV ads talk ominously about Obamacare, special interests and red tape. But they aren’t campaign commercials.

One of the most heated battles this election year involves legislation designed to toughen regulation of the state’s dental care. And both sides have appealed to consumers through a high-dollar television advertising war that complements an expensive lobbying effort at the statehouse.

At the center of the debate: an under-the-radar measure – Senate Bill 655 – that flew through the Senate in the 2011 session and awaits House action when the lawmaking session resumes in May.

The bill would codify existing rules and create new regulations about who can own a dental practice. A political group fighting the legislation has hired eight lobbyists for the upcoming session and raised more than $1 million. Supporters are countering with five lobbyists and a concerted persuasion campaign.

But the legislation is not an easy topic for 30-second commercials, so both sides are reverting to reliable political talking points that blur reality. To supporters, the bill is needed to keep out-of-state corporations from forcing local dentists out of business. To opponents, it represents big government intervention that would drive up costs.

Republican state Sen. Bob Rucho, a retired dentist and bill supporter, said the measure is a work in progress. He acknowledges it is currently a “little overreaching” and expects the House to find a compromise.

But negotiations appear to have reached a standstill. A special House committee examining the measure cancelled its last meeting. And the controversy means lawmakers may not have enough time to consider the bill this year.

Enjoy your morning!

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