November 12, 2013

Maine DHHS could reduce fines for dentists

Dentists complain about large fines by an auditor for minor clerical errors in MaineCare patient cases.

By Joe Lawlor
Staff Writer

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Dr. Michael Dowling works on Aiden Serber, 8, of Westbrook, as dental hygenist Trisha Drewry assists at Falmouth Pediatric Dentistry in Falmouth.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, House chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said the fact that the contract will end in December should lead to a re-examination of why the fines were so large, and potential revisions to the contract.

He said if DHHS digs in its heels, the Legislature could take up bills that limit the discretion of the auditors. “It’s gotten out of control,” he said. “This opens the door for the Legislature to negotiate.”

Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, said auditors should be rooting out fraud and abuse, not finding technical errors, and she will work to change the focus to a more collaborative effort.

“If there’s mistakes, they should be working with the dentists to fix the mistakes, and not charging them a whole lot of money,” Lachowicz said. “It just doesn’t seem right to me.”

Zajkowski said the new system seems punitive rather than an attempt to find abuses. Dentists make less money serving MaineCare patients, because the reimbursement to the dentist is less than through a privately insured patient or someone paying out-of-pocket.

“No one is getting rich serving these patients,” Zajkowski said. “I don’t think any dentists wouldn’t support a system that really tried to find true fraud.”

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or

Twitter: joelawlorph


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