The Maryland Attorney General Consumer Protection Division reached a settlement Wednesday with an Eldersburg dentist regarding allegations that the practice improperly billed insured patients for dental services and threatened criminal action against those with unpaid bills.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler settled with Dr. Loretta Schueler and her dental practice, Dr. Schueler, DDS, LLC, after the practice allegedly billed patients for services which were either covered by insurance or which could not be billed under an agreement with the insurance provider, according to a release from the Attorney General.
Patients with outstanding debts were also threatened with criminal prosecution by Integris Group LLC, acting on Schueler's behalf.
"Patients were being misled into believing they had to pay more than their deductible or co-pay - and some of them were told they could be criminally prosecuted for bills they did not owe," Gansler said in the release.
Schueler denied violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act but agreed to settle the matter, according to the release. As a part of the settlement, Schueler and her practice agreed not to demand payment from consumers when accepting insurance coverage other than for co-payments or deductibles permitted under the consumer's insurance policy. They also agreed not to threaten criminal prosecution to collect a consumer debt unless the transaction involved a criminal violation.
Schueler and her practice will pay restitution to affected consumers from the five-year period prior to the settlement, $10,000 to the Consumer Protection Division for the cost of the investigation and a penalty of up to $20,000, according to the release.