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NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

AUSTIN State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) put it simply Wednesday, speaking to a group of reporters at a news conference in Austin:

"It is infuriating to hear of the kind of problems that are taking place... problems that are particularly serious in Medicaid dental, orthodontia and transportation for Medicaid patients," she said.

For the past two years, News 8 has been investigating the Texas Medicaid Dental program and hundreds of millions of dollars the state has spent on orthodontics under Medicaid.

Sen. Nelson specifically mentioned the parents of Medicaid children who had been solicited by "marketers" bearing free gifts and cash, the subject of several News 8 stories.

Senate Bill 8 is designed to cure some of those abuses.

"It strengthens the prohibitions against solicitation of Medicaid clients," Nelson said. "We heard story after story about that. We are going to prohibit that and make sure it doesn't take place."

So far, the bill does not specifically prohibit handing out gifts and cash to parents to induce them to take their children to certain dentists. Nelson says hearings over the next two months will flesh the bill out.

The legislation also articulates the Inspector General's role in uncovering and reporting fraud, and bans a dentist from participating in Medicaid if found guilty of fraud.

The bill moves Medicaid Transportation into managed care, and directs the Department of Health and Human Services to reduce inappropriate ambulance use.

Even though the specifics of this bill haven't yet been hammered out, there's already huge opposition to it. That's a sign, Nelson says, that as it is, some dentists are making lot of money.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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