By William Tauro
Medical Discrimination is the situation in which a minority patient is not given medical care, whereas a non-minority would receive medical care under the same circumstances. The picture above captures this well.
This is a nation-wide problem, and it will gain more visibility with Oprah Winfrey’s May 2022 documentary “The Color of Care,” which is meant to “catalyze a movement to eliminate racial disparities in the delivery of U.S. Healthcare.”
Dr. Mouhab Rizkallah, has been trying to eliminate such racial disparities in dental care since 2012. Rizkallah is the President of the Medicaid Orthodontists of Massachusetts Association (MOMA), through which he has filed dozens of self-funded litigations on behalf of needy minority patients.
Rizkallah says “Oprah Winfrey deserves a civil rights medal for her documentary. I need help exposing these human atrocities in which state officers force good doctors to overlook real problems that exist in minorities.”
Rizkallah went on to ask “If our society believes in racial equality, then why are doctors forced to misdiagnose minority populations and give them substandard care? I am trying to stop it, but I am exhausted.”
The Somerville/Medford News Weekly has reviewed four Class Action lawsuits filed by Dr. Rizkallah, and each lawsuit represent thousands of kids.
The four lawsuits all accuse MassHealth of harming underprivileged kids by breaking state and federal Medicaid laws. Three of those lawsuits resulted in Rizkallah correcting MassHealth’s behavior, and one is still pending.
The Class Action lawsuit that is still pending was filed in August of 2020, and it accused MassHealth and DentaQuest (an affiliate of Delta Dental) of forcing doctors to give “a different medical diagnosis to Medicaid patients compared to non-Medicaid patients with the same medical condition.”
According to Dr. Rizkallah “This is the very definition of Medical Discrimination.”
Rizkallah’s 2020 Lawsuit requested an injunction against MassHealth to get them to immediately reverse their new mis-diagnosis requirements.
Judge Camille F. Sarrouf Jr. agreed with Rizkallah, and in 2020 immediately reversed the changes through a preliminary injunction (a link to the injunction is below this article).
Judge Sarrouf wrote “The irreparable harm that will result to the child plaintiffs in the absence of an injunction is evident” and “…. the defendants likely violated state law,” referring to the MassHealth agency as the defendants.
Judge Sarrouf stopped what appeared to him to be illegal activity by state officers, and so Dr. Rizkallah protected thousands of children from forced misdiagnosis and “irreparable harm.”
Orthodontists around the state praise Dr. Rizkallah for his advocacy against Medical Discrimination:
Dr. Robert Chavez indicates “Rizkallah’s purpose is to have the laws of our Commonwealth applied without prejudice…”
Dr. Patricia Brown (an African American orthodontist) said “Dr. Rizkallah, please continue to fight for the children of Massachusetts…..”
Dr. Andrew Chase described “Rizkallah’s undying efforts to ensure their care…”
Dr. Robert Petrosino said “I give my full support to Dr. Rizkallah as we continue to fight for our patents’ sake.”
Dr. Lynn Taylor Drizen stated “Dr. Rizkallah is so well respected in the orthodontic community and especially to MassHealth providers.”
The Somerville New Weekly received many more positive doctor comments, in support of Dr. Rizkallah’s work.
What is the future for Medical Discrimination?
Despite these doctors positions, Medical Discrimination will continue to exist, according to Dr. Rizkallah, “because poor people, especially poor kids, can’t afford an attorney to get the care their health plan entitles them to. So I fight for them, and I will never stop.”
Rizkallah said, “Seeing people as your equal is more than words to me. I genuinely believe in God, and I believe we were all designed to be equal. Therefore, I report to a higher authority than the will of MassHealth officers.”