UPDATE: This past Saturday over 500 family, friends and individuals from the community came to pay their respects to Dr. Villarreal at Camp Perry in Rio Hondo.
His many achievements and contributions are commemorated in an article published by the Valley Morning Star.
As many in the south Texas dental community already know, Dr. Juan D. Villarreal, founder of Texas Dentists for Medicaid Reform and Harlingen Family Dentistry, passed away unexpectedly this past Sunday at the age of 66.
For those who can attend, visitation will be held at Camp Perry Dining Hall in Rio Hondo this coming Saturday, January 4, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. Memorial services will begin at 3:00 PM with Military Honors under the auspices of the American Legion Post #205. A Celebration of Life will follow.
He is survived by his wife Elena Villarreal and his children Mark Anthony Villarreal, Amy (Joel) Foss, John Paul Villarreal, Julian Daniel Villarreal, Jon David Villarreal, and Maxim Galamazdin.
His many accomplishments in life and the beneficial influence he had on others and his community are detailed in his family’s online obituary which we republish in part.
He founded Harlingen Family Dentistry in 1983 and through the years has expanded into six additional practice locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley and Austin, where he employs a total of 165 staff. Dr. Villarreal has maintained an active role in the dental community, currently serving as President of the Rio Grande Valley District Dental Society. He also served on the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners from 2001-2008 following an appointment by then-Gov. Rick Perry.
Dr. Villarreal is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry and was named Dentist of the Year in 2015 for his professional achievements. His professional affiliations include the American Dental Association, Hispanic Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, Texas Dental Association, Rio Grande Valley District Dental Society, and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
Dr. Villarreal was an active member of the South Texas economic and civic communities, where he served as Past President of the Harlingen CISD School Board, Past President of the Harlingen Economic Development Board, a member of the Dawnbreakers Lions Club, a sponsor at the Harlingen Outreach Center, a sponsor of the Boy Scouts of America Friends of Scouting organization, benefactor of the JROTC “Set a Good Example” Scholarship Program, a sponsor of Harlingen High and Harlingen South High School Scholarships, and founder and benefactor of Narconon South Texas.
Role in TDMR
Dr. Villarreal founded TDMR in 2012 because he was concerned that Medicaid orthodontists and dentists were getting railroaded by HHSC-OIG and the media over the very loud allegations of Medicaid fraud regarding Texas’s large Medicaid orthodontic billings. He wanted to get the truth out that dentists such as himself and those of his staff were not aware of inappropriate billings and that TMHP had approved them all. He met with members of both the House and Senate over this issue.
He did this out of a sense of duty to the truth, for himself, his profession and really all Medicaid providers. He talked about the allegations being a political coverup for state mismanagement of Medicaid funds. It was easy to blame the providers.
A brief he gave to members at that time read:
“But as the media rolled out, it surprised us, or maybe it shouldn’t have, that the contractor, TMHP, was shown to be incompetent when it came to preauthorizing orthodontic services. That they had neither the technical expertise nor the manpower to do so yet carried on for years in that condition. Per media reports, they had only one dentist and four clerks that approved all cases – some 88,000 across the state in 2011.
“It came as a further surprise that Texas Health and Human Services said they weren’t even aware of the problem with their contractor – the people they were paying with taxpayer money to run Medicaid. … Well, the truth of the matter is that Texas Health and Human Services Commission did know about the situation. They were warned about it back in 2008 when their own Office of the Inspector General did an audit of TMHP. The very deficiencies that came to light in the media in 2011 regarding orthodontia pre-authorization by TMHP – the lack of qualified staff to review cases, the rubber-stamping of cases, etc. — were discovered and reported. Nothing was done at that time. Then HHSC saw orthodontia spending escalate over the last three years and waited until the media reported on them before pretending to be cognizant of the problem.”
Today, we all recognize this as the truth. Xerox was fired and sued back in 2014. Then-HHSC executives started falling from grace for one reason or another shortly afterward — Doug Wilson, Jack Stick, even executive commissioner Kyle Janek hit the dirt.
But back in the day, Dr. Villarreal was a lone voice in the wilderness. He vividly recalled the then-president of the TDA rebuffing any discussion of the issues at a meeting on South Padre Island in the summer of 2012.
His pursuit of truth and justice, along with others, also lead to the passing of due process legislation for Medicaid providers in 2013. The House and Senate passed it unanimously with then-Gov. Rick Perry signing it into law.
Just before Christmas, Dr. Villarreal expressed concern about the seeming double standards of justice in Texas. He chuckled about House Speaker Dennis Bonnen being found to have “likely” broken the law but that it wasn’t going to be pursued. Wouldn’t happen to a Medicaid provider. That’s for sure.
He also marveled about the story in the Texas Tribune about the Texas Legislature helping a billionaire to get out of a $123 million judgment against him from a European country.
Despite his favorable judgment from the State Office of Administrative Hearings back in 2012, the Office of Attorney General has kept a case open against him for his office’s orthodontic billings before 2011. Dr. Villarreal was forcing the issue and had requested a trial date in a recent court motion.
He said that he was looking forward to going to court and winning.
We wish he was still here amongst us.