Dorchester doctor indicted for illegally charging for addiction treatment
A doctor who owns a Dorchester clinic was indicted Thursday on charges stemming from his alleged illegal demand for cash payments from patients for an opioid addiction treatment, state Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.
Dr. Ashok Patel, 61, of Hanover allegedly insisted patients pay out of pocket for the treatment drug suboxone, though the drug’s cost is covered by the state’s Medicaid program, according to the statement. Patients who couldn’t afford to pay cash allegedly were turned away and refused treatment, the statement said.
A Suffolk grand jury indicted Patel and the facility he owns, Ambama Clinic Inc., on charges of filing a false Medicaid claim, making excess charges, and two counts of larceny over $250, the statement said.
“We allege that this doctor illegally charged patients for substance use treatments already covered by insurance,” Healey said in the statement. “This conduct undermines access to the medical care needed to break the cycle of addiction and we will take immediate and aggressive action against those who seek to illegally profit off this crisis.”
Patel could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
He will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court at a later date, the statement said.
Patel is authorized as a primary care provider under MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, and is required by law to accept MassHealth disbursements as payment in full for treatment services — including drugs used to suppress opioid withdrawal or block the effects of opioids — provided to the program’s members, the statement said.
But at Ambama Clinic, Patel allegedly had a policy of refusing MassHealth payments for substance use treatment and instead charging $75 weekly or $125 biweekly to provide Suboxone to MassHealth patients.
Between December 2014 and August 2016, Patel allegedly took cash payments of more than $15,000 from MassHealth members for services covered by the program, then “double-dipped” on those treatments by submitting more than $12,000 in reimbursement claims to MassHealth, according to investigators for the attorney general’s office.
Patel also allegedly improperly coded an opioid-blocking medication in reimbursement claims as chemotherapy, garnering an overpayment of more than $10,000, according to the statement.
Healey’s office received a referral from MassHealth regarding Patel’s sales of suboxone, her statement said.