Unnecessary sedation at center of dentist’s fraud charges

An Anchorage dentist and his office manager are facing charges of fraud over unnecessarily sedating patients and then charging Medicaid.

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The state’s Medicaid fraud unit on Monday filed a 17-count criminal complaint against Dr. Seth Lookhart and his office manager, Shauna Cranford, who operate Clear Creek Dental.

Lookhart and Cranford allegedly put dental patients under unnecessary intravenous sedation. Prosecutors say Lookhart billed Medicaid for the procedure more than any other Alaska dentist in 2016, accounting for more than 30 percent of all such billings in the state.

According to the charges, Lookhart sedated one person who was simply getting their teeth cleaned. That was among other procedures mentioned in the charges that did not require sedation.

The state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s director, Paul Miovas, said the dentist targeted Medicaid patients.

“A lot of their advertising, it very clear that they accepted Medicaid and Medicaid patients were welcome at their clinic,” Miovas said. “They had direct mailings, they had a Facebook page with rotating ads, they worked with a lot of the review sites, like Yelp and things of that nature.”

According to Alaska regulations, IV sedation is only to be used in emergencies or when other less risky and less expensive forms of sedation do not work.

Still, Miovas said the charges are solely allegations that Lookhart and Cranford committed fraud and do not accuse them of any medical wrongdoing.

“None of the charges I’ve brought have anything to do with there being any sort of dangerous aspect to his practice of using IV sedation. It is an accepted practice. He is trained, he is licensed,” Miovas said.

The case is set for a hearing in court Wednesday.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Casey here

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