Dentist says he was dropped from voucher program after criticizing St. Clair County

News-DemocratJune 17, 2013 

A local dentist says the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants Department cut him out of a federally paid dental voucher program after he spoke out on behalf of a client and criticized the program for wasting money.

Intergovernmental Grants Department Director Debra Moore and County Board Chairman Mark Kern could not be reached for comment concerning the complaint.

Ken Brosh, whose dental office is in Mascoutah, is one of a handful of dentists treating low-income residents who receive vouchers to offset the cost of dental care. The voucher amounts vary between $200 and $400 depending on money that year.

The county's Intergovernmental Grants Department administers the voucher program, which is paid for by the federal Community Service Block Grant. The county paid out about $11,800 in vouchers in 2011, about $11,600 in 2012 and more than $5,700 so far in 2013.

To use the voucher, a resident must be treated by a dentist chosen by county staff.

Brosh was one of first dentists to participate in the program, and at one time treated two patients per week, he said. More than 180 people have received the vouchers since 2010, according to county records.

However, Brosh said that changed in spring 2012 after he criticized county staff for denying a dental voucher to an unemployed patient and wasting money by sending patients to dentists unable to treat their problems.

"I can't prove it but it seems awfully coincidental," Brosh said. "I believe that caused them to decide to cut the financial legs off and not help our office one bit."

One of Brosh's patients became unemployed in June 2011. After learning the patient had an infected wisdom tooth, Brosh suggested she seek financial help through the voucher program.

When the county denied her help, Brosh said he spoke out on her behalf. Eligibility for the vouchers is based upon federal poverty guidelines, which Brosh said the client met.

"I treated a lot of people past what the county would pay for, which is why I thought the county held me in such high esteem. But that apparently was not the case," Brosh said.

After the woman was denied the voucher, Brosh treated the patient for free in February 2012.

County records show the last patient sent to Brosh was in May 2012. Brosh received $1,681 for treating patients in the first five months of 2012. In total, the county paid out $11,638 in dental vouchers to all dentists in 2012.

In comparison, Brosh received about $4,500 of nearly $11,800 total dental vouchers administered through St. Clair County in 2011.

He also urged the county to give patients preliminary exams before sending them to dentists without surgical abilities. The practice caused patients to be examined by one dentist, then sent to another dentist capable of performing the surgery.

"They were sending people to dentists who could not help them," Brosh said. "It just wasn't a good use of time and resources."

From the beginning of the year until mid-May, vouchers from the Intergovernmental Grants Department have been used to offset the dental cost of 25 patients. The patients have been sent to three dentists offices in Dupo, Belleville and Fairview Heights.

The Intergovernmental Grants Department faces an investigation from federal agents with the U.S. Department of Labor for allegedly discriminating against the disabled and retaliating against three employees for filing a discrimination complaint with state officials, according to a letter sent to Moore and obtained by the News-Democrat through the Freedom of Information Act.

Investigators with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity previously found the county denied two residents services based upon their disabilities; fired an employee for asking the state to intervene for the disabled workers, and created a hostile work environment, according to a report obtained by the News-Democrat.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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