AUSTIN – Call it the billion-dollar blame game.
Six years after auditors discovered signs that some Texas orthodontists were putting unneeded braces on teeth of the state’s poorest children, an army of lawyers are battling over who is liable for one of the biggest instances of Medicaid abuse in recent history.
The state’s estimate for how much was spent between 2007 and 2012 on Medicaid dental and orthodontic services that were medically unnecessary, improperly documented or not provided at all has climbed to $823 million.
The federal government, which pays for 60 percent of Medicaid and only allows recipients to get braces that are needed to eat or breathe, is expected to demand its share of the money back, and has said it holds the state responsible for failing to stop the abuse.
That means Texas taxpayers, already out hundreds of millions of dollars, could be on the hook for half a billion more.