A group of New York, New Jersey and Vermont pediatric dentists — accused of performing "medically unnecessary" root canals on children — agreed to pay more than $750,000 after a former worker turned whistleblower, prosecutors said on Thursday.

The dentistry group, formerly known as HQRC Management Services LLC, was run by dentist Barry L. Jacobson and included an office on Long Island: Pediatric Dentistry of Valley Stream, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a joint statement with the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Philip Sellinger.

“Dr. Jacobson and HQRC admit [the attorney general's] Medical Fraud Control Unit’s investigative findings that in some instances between 2011 and 2018, affiliated dentists performed and billed Medicaid for therapeutic pulpotomies not supported by the medical records maintained at the respective dental practices,” prosecutors said.

Some of the HQRC dentists performed root canals on children's primary teeth, the prosecutors said. Those teeth, experts say, typically break through the gums when children are from six months to 2½ years old, and then fall out, starting at around age 6, when they are replaced by permanent teeth.

The technical term for these procedures is pulpotomies. The infected and damaged pulp is removed from the upper part of the tooth, which is then covered with either a filling or a crown.

Prosecutors said the dentistry group also came under fire for incorrect claims.

“The defendants also admit that in some instances between 2011 and 2014, HQRC made billing errors on claims submitted to New York and New Jersey Medicaid contractors that resulted in inaccurate servicing provider information on claims for services performed at three of its locations,” the prosecutors said.

The majority of the settlement will go to the Medicaid programs in New York and New Jersey. Part of the settlement will be paid to the whistleblower, who filed a lawsuit under the federal and New York False Claims Act, prosecutors said.

Steven Chananie, the lawyer who represented Dr. Jacobson, criticized the way the prosecutors presented the settlement, saying, “My client is actually outraged and shocked by the government’s press release.” 

Chananie said Thursday that his client fully cooperated with the approximately five-year probe and said the settlement stemmed from flawed records for the root canals.

“There was no admission by Dr. Jacobson and HQRC that the pulpotomies were medically unnecessary,” the lawyer said.

According to the settlement agreement, the whistleblower will receive nearly $136,000.

Both prosecutors pledged zero tolerance for what James called “this fraudulent scheme.”

“Dr. Jacobson and HQRC allegedly performed unnecessary and invasive dental procedures on children to line their own pockets,” said James. “My office will not tolerate any instance of medically unnecessary procedures performed on vulnerable Medicaid beneficiaries."

Said Sellinger: “Recovering their ill-gotten gains only begins to undo this damage. Working with Attorney General James and our partners in the New York Attorney General’s Office, we want to make it clear that this behavior is intolerable.”

Jacobson, whose firm now is called PDS Management Solutions, was also joined in the settlement by the following practices: Pediatric Dentistry of Paterson, Pediatric Dentistry of Teaneck, Pediatric Dentistry of Wyckoff, Pediatric Dentistry of Flushing, Pediatric Dentistry of the Bronx, Pediatric Dentistry of Avenue U, Pediatric Dentistry of Boro Park, Pediatric Dentistry of Monsey, Pediatric Dentistry of Kingston, Pediatric Dentistry of Albany, Pediatric Dentistry of Malone, and North Country Pediatric Dentistry.

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