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Maura Healey sues orthodontist with Lowell office for allegedly illegally charging MassHealth patients

BOSTON MA. FEBRUARY 23: Attorney General Maura Healey (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
BOSTON MA. FEBRUARY 23: Attorney General Maura Healey (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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LOWELL — An orthodontist with an office in Lowell is being sued by Attorney General Maura Healey for allegedly illegally charging MassHealth patients for missed or canceled appointments, officials announced on Thursday.

Healey’s office filed the new complaints against Dr. Mouhab Z. Rizkallah — who owns and operates six orthodontic practices in Massachusetts, including one in Lowell — after they began investigating a complaint they received from a patient’s guardian.

According to the Attorney General, Rizkallah allegedly required MassHealth patients to sign a “MassHealth Treatment Contract,” forcing patients to pay a minimum $20 fee for missed or canceled appointments and for appointments rescheduled on less than 24 hours’ notice.

Under MassHealth regulations, providers are prohibited from charging MassHealth patients out-of-pocket fees for covered services, including any costs associated with appointments that patients are unable to make, officials said.

The new claims, filed on Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, were added to an existing lawsuit against Rizkallah and his two companies — Dr. Mouhab Z. Rizkallah DDS MSD PC and The Braces Place of Lawrence LLC — that Healey’s office filed in February.

In the original lawsuit, Healey alleged that Rizkallah submitted millions of dollars in fraudulent MassHealth claims, including by keeping children in braces for longer than medically necessary and deceptively billing patients for mouth guards they could have bought in retail stores for a fraction of the cost.

“For years, this orthodontist used his young patients as pawns to steal millions of dollars from the state,” Healey said in a statement in March. “This illegal behavior harmed families from low-income communities and communities of color who rely on MassHealth for health care coverage. We are suing to hold Dr. Rizkallah accountable for these exploitative practices that victimized vulnerable residents in Massachusetts.”

Outside of Lowell, Rizkallah has orthodontic practices in Somerville, Boston, Lawrence, Framingham and Lynn. An employee who answered the phone at the Somerville location of The Braces Place early Thursday afternoon said that Rizkallah was not immediately available for comment.

According to a biography on The Braces Place website, Rizkallah is president of the Medicaid Orthodontists of Massachusetts Association and a member of numerous professional societies, including the World Federation of Orthodontists.

The case is being handled by members of the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Division, including Assistant Attorneys General Stephany Collamore and Matthew Turnell, Senior Health Care Fraud Investigator Andrew Lutynski and Investigator William Welsh.