Two Local Doctors to Pay More Than $445,000 Over Allegations of Illegally Charging Patients for Suboxone Treatment
Settlements are Part of AG’s Fight Against Opiate Addiction
BOSTON – Two local doctors have agreed to pay a combined $445,720 for allegedly charging cash for opiate addiction treatment already covered by the state’s Medicaid program, illegally profiting off of hundreds of patients, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
According to separate investigations by the AG’s Office, Dr. Joshua Golden and Dr. Masoud Shahidi allegedly required patients who were MassHealth members to pay out-of-pocket fees in order to receive the drug Suboxone, when they were entitled to receive treatment for free. It is alleged that each provider accepted MassHealth insurance except when a patient sought addiction treatment using Suboxone. Under the terms of two assurances of discontinuance, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, each physician has agreed to provide restitution and no longer charge members for covered services.
“These doctors took advantage of low income patients struggling with addiction, forcing them to pay illegal fees for Suboxone services,” AG Healey said. “My office is committed to eliminating obstacles to treatment for those in the throes of addiction.”
MassHealth providers are required by law to accept payments from MassHealth as payment in full for services provided to its members. Suboxone, as well as other formulations of buprenorphine, is used for the treatment of opioid addiction as it suppresses withdrawal and cravings for opioids.
Dr. Golden is a board-certified psychiatrist whose psychiatric practice is United Health Associates, located in Sharon and Attleboro. Since July 2011, the AG’s Office alleges that Golden unlawfully received at least $288,150 from MassHealth members seeking addiction treatment. The AG’s Office alleges that Golden knowingly charged patients approximately $250 cash for an initial Suboxone treatment visit and $100 for subsequent visits.
Under the terms of the settlement, Golden has agreed to pay a total of $363,150, including $288,150 in restitution to be distributed among 107 MassHealth members and a $75,000 penalty to be paid to the Commonwealth.
Shahidi, a board certified pediatrician, provides addiction treatment and primary care services at his Dedham practice, Dedham Family Medical, P.C.
According to the AG’s Office, since August 2011, Shahidi knowingly charged more than 100 MassHealth members in excess of $95 in cash for an initial Suboxone treatment visit and $95 in cash for each visit afterward, instead of submitting claims to MassHealth.
Under the terms of the settlement, Shahidi has agreed to pay a total of $57,570 in restitution to be distributed among 100 MassHealth members. Shahidi will also pay a penalty of $25,000 to the Commonwealth.
Shahidi and Golden are also prohibited from soliciting, charging, receiving or accepting any money for medical services available under MassHealth, unless required or permitted under MassHealth regulations. Shahidi and Golden must also post a clear and conspicuous sign at the front desk of every medical office operated by them stating that MassHealth members may not be charged anything for receiving services from their offices.
In April, the AG’s Office sued a North Andover treatment center for similar practices of charging cash for Suboxone services. This case is being litigated in Essex Superior Court.
Today’s announcement is a continuation of Attorney General Healey’s work to address the growing opiate addiction crisis in Massachusetts. The AG’s Office has been looking at a host of other practices, from pharmaceutical marketing, to drug trafficking, to overprescribing, to dispensing, and insurance coverage barriers.
MassHealth members eligible for restitution under the terms of these settlements will be contacted by the AG’s Office in the coming weeks. Members of the public who are aware of similar practices by other physicians should call the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Division at (617) 963-2360 or file a complaint through the Attorney General’s website.
The investigation of Dr. Golden was handled by Assistant Attorney General Ian Marinoff and Investigators Scott Grannemann and Erica Schlain, all of the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Division. The investigation of Dr. Shahidi was handled by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Adams and Investigators Robert Ames and Gregoire Ucuz, all of the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Division.