Dental management company Benevis LLC (formerly known as NCDR LLC) and more than 130 of its affiliated Kool Smiles dental clinics for which Benevis provides business management and administrative services, will pay the United States and participating states a total of $23.9 million, plus interest, to resolve allegations that they knowingly submitted false claims for payment to state Medicaid programs for medically unnecessary dental services performed on children insured by Medicaid. The United States alleged that between January 2009 and December 2011, Benevis and Kool Smiles clinics located throughout 17 states knowingly submitted false claims to state Medicaid programs for medically unnecessary pulpotomies (baby root canals), tooth extractions, and stainless steel crowns, in addition to seeking payment for pulpotomies that were never performed. The United States alleges that Kool Smiles clinics routinely pressured and incentivized dentists to meet production goals through a system that disciplined “unproductive” dentists and awarded “productive” dentists with substantial cash bonuses based on the revenue generated by the procedures they performed. According to the government’s allegations, Kool Smiles clinics ignored complaints from their own dentists regarding overutilization. In addition, the United States further alleged that Kool Smiles clinics located in Texas knowingly submitted false claims to the Texas Medicaid Program for First Dental Home (FDH), a program intended to provide a comprehensive package of dental services aimed at improving the oral health of children under three years of age. These clinics are alleged to have submitted false claims for FDH services that were not fully provided.
Of the $23.9 million to be paid by Benevis and its affiliated Kool Smiles clinics, the federal government will receive a total of $14,244,073.49, plus interest, and a total of $9,655,926.51, plus interest, will be returned to individual states, which jointly funded improper claims submitted to state Medicaid programs.
The government’s investigation was initiated by five lawsuits filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private citizens to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in a portion of the government’s recovery. These cases are currently pending in the District of Connecticut and the Western District of Texas. As part of today’s resolution, three of the whistleblowers—former Kool Smiles employees Adam Abendano, Poonam Rai, and Robin Fitzgerald—will receive payments totaling more than $2.4 million.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers but not those in this case.