Free dental program results in errant bills

Officials say a small number of bills went out to parents of children who received free services at school.

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WALLA WALLA -- A billing error that sent a handful of parents notices they owed hundreds of dollars for a free dental sealant program was most likely a billing error isolated to Green Park Elementary School, an official said.

Yakima Valley Farm Works Clinic spokesman Glenn Cassidy said a coding error in five of the student participants caused parents to get a bill asking them to remit payment, in one case asking for $449 to be paid.

"To be honest with you, it is embarrassing that we sent these out ... my people are guessing that it is very, very rare. But out of 5,000 of these procedures (per year), my people know of only three (later changed to four) this happened to," Cassidy said.

The clinic runs dental sealant programs in school districts across the state, including Walla Walla elementary schools.

The program is called a free service, which may be a misnomer.

The program is paid for by federal, state and some private grants; many of the grants require that the clinic first bill medicaid or private health insurers, Cassidy said.

He added that in the future the clinic will try to make clearer to parents that the program is at no cost to them.

"It is still not the clearest bill in the world, but we do bill to Medicaid or private insurance ... there was a coding error because there was supposed to be a certain code that said do not send out a bill (to parents)," Cassidy said.

Any parent who may have received a bill for the clinic's dental sealant program is asked to call the clinic at 509-877-3243.

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