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Dentist taken off area Medicaid list

No more patients will be referred to the oral surgeon charged with filing fraudulent claims.

By CANDACE RONDEAUX, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 3, 2002


No more patients will be referred to the oral surgeon charged with filing fraudulent claims.

ST. PETERSBURG -- State officials have taken Dr. Allena Burge, the oral surgeon charged with filing nearly $164,000 in fraudulent Medicaid claims, off their list of dental providers for poor patients in the Tampa Bay area.

Employees of the Agency for Health Care Administration were instructed to remove Burge's name from a short list of oral surgeons who treat Medicaid patients, according to an official with the agency office covering Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Noreen Hemmen, the office's field manager, said Burge's name was removed and replaced by two other St. Petersburg oral surgeons shortly after her arrest in June. "She is not currently on our list," Hemmen said.

Kim Reed, a spokeswoman for AHCA in Tallahassee, said the move was made independent of input from officials at the agency's headquarters. "This was a local decision. It was not made in Tallahassee," Reed said. "They chose to take her off the list after learning of the allegations against her," she added.

Burge is Pinellas County's busiest oral surgeon who accepts Medicaid. Her office has provided care to 4,425 Medicaid patients since October, state officials said. According to public records, she took in more than $1.1-million from Medicaid claims this year. State investigators said she filed 57,000 claims for a total of $6.6-million in a little more than four years.

Burge is charged with filing 3,331 fraudulent claims for a total of $163,721 between 1998 and 2002.

Reed confirmed that officials at AHCA's headquarters had temporarily taken action to stop payments to Burge on July 2. But Reed also confirmed that Burge still received payment after that date for more than $55,000 in claims that were filed before the oral surgeon's arrest on June 28. "The claims usually do run about two months behind," Reed said.

For the past six years, Burge has also held a contract with Pinellas County's Department of Social Services to provide health care to the county's poor.

On Monday, social services officials met with the county attorney and discussed the status of that contract.

Evelyn Bethell, the department's director, said her office has not officially stopped referring patients to Burge, but hasn't referred anyone to her in some time. But that, Bethell said, is largely because a budget deficit has virtually eliminated dental services for the county's poor.

Assistant County Attorney Carl Brody said he was not aware of AHCA's decision to remove Burge from the local referral list."We're just going to observe and see how things go with the charges against her," Brody said.

Burge has not commented on the case to the Times. An answering machine picked up calls to her office on Friday.

- You can reach Candace Rondeaux at (727) 893-8215 or rondeaux@sptimes.com.

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