Troubleshooter: Braces flap

May 19, 2009 9:40:50 PM PDT
Sara Oswald was stuck with thousands of dollars in dental bills for something she never expected or requested. It involves braces on her 14-year-old son that she didn't even know about until after they were in his mouth. This happened while her son was in a behavioral treatment center, Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services, in Winston Salem.

Sara tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "He called me one day and said mom I have braces and I'm like what when did this happen? I expected him to get treatment for mind and behavior. It caught me off guard why would he have braces on him; he's there to do something else."

But the facility, admits taking her 14-year-old son to an orthodontist who put braces on his teeth and then to a dentist who pulled two of his teeth. All without her permission, even though she's the legal guardian. Sara adds, "They can't give him any meds without my permission they can't change meds without permission and through this whole procedure they've always called me with that."

The NC Department of Health and Human Services investigated and cited Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services for not getting Sara's consent.

But she's got more questions like why did Old Vineyard take her son to an orthodontist in the first place? Why would he need a cosmetic procedure, when he's ordered by the state to be in a behavioral facility? She adds, "He's in a locked facility, doesn't know how long he's going to be there and he has braces on that aren't worth anything."

Sara says she later took her son to her own orthodontist who told her that just to continue and finish the orthodontic and dental treatment it would cost her more than $13,000. Sara says, "I don't have the money to pay for it. So I'm stuck with him having braces on." Braces she never agreed to.

Another question, since her son is a Medicaid recipient, why did Medicaid approve and pay for braces on a teen getting treated in a psychiatric facility? She says, "It's an elective procedure. It's cosmetic; it's not something they need."

Sara says she complained loud and long, and in a letter, and Old Vineyard finally agreed to pay for half the future costs --meaning half of the $13,180. They asked the orthodontist to pay the rest but he refused. Fed up after months of fighting over this, Sara e-mailed Troubleshooter Diane Wilson. Sara says, "I just want my son's mouth fixed, because I don't have the money to pay for it."

After Troubleshooter Diane Wilson got in touch with the corporate office of Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services, they called Sara. She says they offered to pay her all the $13,180 which is what it will costs to complete her son's orthodontic treatments. While she's relieved, she wants to make sure this doesn't happen to any other families. She adds, "A dentist is fine, but why would they ever send him to an orthodontist? I think tax payers would be very interested to know that braces are going on these kids that have no business having them."

It's important to note that Sara's son could have his continued dental and orthodontic treatment paid by tax payers as Medicaid would have paid for everything if she'd stay with a Medicaid excepting dentist/orthodontist. But she says she's not comfortable having taxpayers pay for something she says he doesn't need at this time and she didn't okay. As for Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services, they released this statement.

    "Due to confidentiality and privacy requirements, we are prohibited from discussing certain specifics of this particular situation. Old Vineyard takes the safety and well being of our patients seriously and ensures that all patients receive necessary and appropriate medical and dental care while in our care and custody. Old Vineyard receives no financial benefit from the services performed by any outside physicians, dentists or orthodontists. This was an isolated incident which has never occurred in the past. Old Vineyard has resolved the situation to the satisfaction of all parties."

As for Medicaid, if you're wondering if they pay for procedures like braces for people in a behavioral facility? A Medicaid representative told Troubleshooter Diane Wilson they do pay for dental care and braces when there's a demonstrated dental need. But the orthodontist must get prior approval.


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