Mon | Mar 27, 2023

Michelle Charles under local probe

Dental Council drills deeper into US breaches

Published:Monday | February 7, 2022 | 12:06 AMJovan Johnson/Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Michelle Charles, member of parliament for St Thomas Eastern, addresses lawmakers at Gordon House on October 20, 2021. Looking on is her brother, Pearnel Charles Jr.
Dr Michelle Charles, member of parliament for St Thomas Eastern, addresses lawmakers at Gordon House on October 20, 2021. Looking on is her brother, Pearnel Charles Jr.

The Dental Council of Jamaica says it is investigating the United States track record of dental surgeon Dr Michelle Charles. The council said it took the action after learning from The Sunday Gleaner that Charles was penalised in the US for...

The Dental Council of Jamaica says it is investigating the United States track record of dental surgeon Dr Michelle Charles.

The council said it took the action after learning from The Sunday Gleaner that Charles was penalised in the US for various administrative breaches in the past, and is now the subject of a complaint filed last November by the Florida Department of Health.

Charles, a government lawmaker and a locally registered dentist, has denied the two allegations in the administrative complaint made to the Board of Dentistry that regulates the profession in the Sunshine State.

“We are going to investigate it thoroughly,” said Dr Lloyd Prince, the registrar of the Dental Council, the local regulators, confirming that a probe is being led by the Ethics and Professionalism Subcommittee of the council.

Prince said there was no timeline yet on when the investigation is likely to be wrapped up, noting that the pace depends on the extent of the information collected.

The council has also indicated that as a result of the Sunday Gleaner investigation, dental practitioners applying for renewal of their licence every two years will be now be required to declare whether they are the subject of any litigation or had disciplinary actions taken against them.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Health has now indicated that Charles has offered to relinquish her Florida dental licence, pending a decision from the state’s regulators.

The February 2 offer displayed on the department’s website came two days after Charles told this newspaper that she had no intentions of practising in Florida again.

Charles currently operates out of an office in St Andrew. However, her name does not appear on the latest list of compliant practitioners because she has outstanding continuing education requirements, the council said.

The latest list was published last Friday, but covers dentists who were compliant up to December 31, 2021.

The council said Charles submitted her outstanding education requirements last Monday, and her name will appear on the next list due for publication later this month.

The council has maintained that Charles has been in “good standing”.

It explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to required educational courses, and that practitioners like Charles were issued temporary certificates for three months initially, then for an additional six months, to allow them time to complete the requirements.


Charles has admitted that she was not aware of the November 12, 2021 complaint until it was supplied to her by this newspaper.

The complaint contains two allegations – that she breached state laws by failing to document the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of the patient who visited her Orlando-based practice in July 2017; and that she closed her practice in March 2020 without fulfilling legal obligations, such as not publishing the update in a newspaper to advise patients of the closure, and how they may obtain their records.

It also said that Charles failed to notify the Board of Dentistry in writing within 10 days of a change of address, as required by law.

Charles has disputed those allegations.

“I can confirm by documents in my possession that this is incorrect. All my patients were verbally and otherwise informed that my professional office would be closed in August 2020, and all records for the last 20 years are accessible and available,” she said.

Charles’ Florida dental licence was originally issued on March 13, 1996, and is set to expire on February 28, 2022.

Over the last decade, at least four other complaints were brought against her, all of which were settled with the Board of Dentistry after she admitted to the allegations.

The board’s sanctions included probations; licence suspensions that were stayed; orders to undertake specific legal and educational courses; refunds, among other stipulations.

The Office of the Attorney General for Florida has also said that Charles was investigated by its Medicaid Fraud Control Unit on three occasions between 2000 and 2013. The specific times were not disclosed.

The office said the nature of the complaints that triggered three probes involved charging a patient for item(s) covered by Medicaid; billing for services not rendered; and billing under the wrong provider name.

The three cases were referred to the Agency for Health Care Administration for recoupment. The records show that Charles made refunds and satisfied the other obligations as ordered.

One of those cases involved a patient who was suffering with HIV and who sought an expensive denture that was not covered by Medicaid, a US government health insurance programme that covers health costs for low-income persons.


Charles explained that after removing all the man’s teeth, he later varied his request.

“What I did not know, which is my fault, is that with the state, you’re not allowed to upgrade a denture, because if a man can pay US$200-and-something dollars extra for a denture, he shouldn’t be on Medicaid, in Medicaid’s opinion,” she explained of the man she said was given six months to live.

According to Charles, the man later filed a reimbursement claim, which triggered the investigation and subsequent action against her.

“He, now, to get his money back, all of a sudden denture don’t fit good ... . It was fitting quite fine before,” she added, dismissing the further allegations that another dentist found errors with the denture.

Charles said she agreed to reimburse the patient as that was the most effective way to settle the issue, arguing that it would have cost more to fight the matter through insurance.

Charles also explained that her agreeing to the settlements in the cases brought against her were based on advice from her attorneys.

“When you’re black and female in America and you’re very successful, you’re consistently attacked, and I don’t like to play the victim,” she told The Gleaner during an interview last Monday.

“I don’t want to be associated with the word ‘fraud’,” she said.


Regarding the investigation into billing under the wrong provider name, Charles said her office had an administrative problem as she and her associates did not form a group that would have allowed them to properly bill Medicaid patients.

“They (investigators) went through every single patient ... they did not find one X-ray that we billed for that we didn’t take. There was no fraud anywhere. The problem was, we didn’t have a group number which broke down to see which provider did it (X-rays),” she said.

And Charles, noting that she saw 60 patients per day, has blamed her “ignorance” that led to the investigation of claims that a Medicaid patient was billed for services not rendered.

Charles said her office combined two cleaning services – full-mouth debridement (plaque removal and) and tooth polishing – on a bill that should not have been done, as there was a requirement for each to be charged separately.

“We billed them together, so we had to choose which one we wanted Medicaid pay for ... and we didn’t bother to go look in the patient’s file. It’s just ignorance, I guess,” she explained.

When Charles was repeatedly asked about the Medicaid cases prior to the publication of the previous story, she declined to comment on them, saying she had “responded to all the matters”.

Charles, 52, was elected to the House of Representatives as member of parliament for St Thomas Eastern in the September 2020 general election.

She said she declared her cases to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party, whose general secretary, Dr Horace Chang, said “no comment” when asked about the issue.