It started with concern about dental clinics soliciting children and parents of children who are covered by Medicaid. People hired by dental clinics were approaching children on the streets and parents in neighborhood grocery stores offering a variety of incentives, including free gift cards, pizzas and manicures, in exchange for taking their children to a specific dentist or clinic.
HHSC’s Office of Inspector General is reminding doctors and dentists that state and federal law prohibits giving free gifts to Medicaid clients.
“A doctor can’t offer a Medicaid client cash, a gift card, amusement park tickets or similar items as an incentive to get them to go to their office or clinic,” Inspector General Doug Wilson said. “That’s a violation of the laws that prohibit solicitation of Medicaid clients, and violations can carry a penalty of up to $10,000 per incident.”
Solicitation of Medicaid clients is prohibited by the federal Social Security Act and by state laws. While current Texas State Board of Dental Examiners rules allows gifts for other patients, Wilson noted that Medicaid providers still must comply with state and federal laws banning gifts for Medicaid patients.
Although providing gifts may not affect a dentist’s license, it can result in Medicaid penalties.
“When it comes to Medicaid clients, the law is clear,” Wilson said. “Gifts for new patients aren’t allowed, and we’ll investigate any reports we get of that.”
Wilson also pointed out that the ban on free gifts includes transportation services. He said Medicaid clients who need a ride to a medical appointment should call the state’s Medical Transportation Program.
Wilson asked that anyone who knows of a doctor, dentist or other Medicaid provider offering free gifts to patients to call the Office of Inspector General hotline at 800-436-6184 or report it online at http://oig.hhsc.state.tx.us/oigportal.