Health Partners use Tax Surplus to Purchase Electric Toothbrushes

electric toothbrushes

A Bloomington Minnesota based company failed to follow federal for spending taxpayer dollars when it used a surplus to purchase unnecessary  electric toothbrushes for every enrolled in a Minnesota-created health plan for low-income seniors, according to federal regulators who had approved the purchase at the time.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services determined Thursday that the Health Partners expenditure   “shouldn’t have been a mandatory supplemental benefit” for the 3,100 enrolled in the Minnesota Senior Health Options Plan, a managed care program for seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

The electronic toothbrushes are considered over-the-counter and not a true dental benefit and therefore should have been a voluntary purchase made by the seniors themselves, a CMS spokesperson said.

Local news outlets where notified of the issue when the daughter of 94-year-old woman received a kit last month despite having dentures and not ordering the product.

The box, which exceeded four pounds, was shipped through FedEx, contained an Oral-B precision 5000 electronic toothbrush, accessory brushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss,  a tote bag and a Health Partners dish plate.

The electric toothbrush retails for $109.99 making the retail value for 3,100 patients in excess of $340,000, not including the additional accessories and the cost of shipping.

According to the Bloomington HMO, its management of the MHSO contract resulted from a surplus in the most recent year.  A CMS representative stated that the rebate dollars should have been used to provide “supplemental benefit” to enrollees since the money had been allocated for their care.

Such benefits include periodontal maintenance, root canals on molars, a second dental exam, additional crown coverage, and more according to information provided by Health Partners. The toothbrushes do not meet CMS requirements for supplemental benefits, which are considered “mandatory” and must be provided to all members, the Federal agency explained on Thursday.