Alaska dentist on trial for Medicaid fraud, performing procedures without permission

Two former patients testified against an Anchorage, Alaska-based dentist Dec. 3, in a trial alleging the dentist unnecessarily sedated patients to maximize Medicaid payments and removed teeth without permission, among other claims, Anchorage Daily News reports.

Seth Lookhart, DMD, and his former office manager, Shauna Cranford, are accused of fraudulently billing nearly $2 million in intravenous sedation during 2016. Charges were filed in April 2017, and Dr. Lookhart's dental and sedation licenses were suspended in June 2017. Dr. Lookhart's trial began Nov. 12 and is scheduled to end Dec. 6.

Rachel Miner, a former employee of Dr. Lookhart's Clear Creek Dental practice in Anchorage, testified that Dr. Lookhart and Ms. Cranford told her to offer IV sedation to every Medicaid patient. Ms. Miner also claimed Medicaid patients were sedated longer than private-pay patients.

Dr. Lookhart's reimbursement totals for IV sedation made up nearly 31 percent of Maine's total IV sedation payments in 2016, according to Medicaid fraud investigators.

One former patient, Joseph Smith, testified that four of his teeth were removed without his permission while he was sedated. He also said his dentures were fitted so poorly he couldn't speak, eat or breathe normally when wearing them.

Dr. Lookhart's attorney argued that the patients who testified had given the dentist positive reviews, but Mr. Smith said he completed the review while he was still partially sedated and wasn't aware that his teeth were missing.

Ms. Cranford, who also pulled teeth from a sedated patient, pleaded guilty in October to medical assistance fraud and a misdemeanor for practicing without a license. Her sentencing is set for February.

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