County officials say they have done all they can for a 12-year-old boy in need of Medicaid orthodontic care and acknowledge that disadvantaged youngsters usually have to wait for such treatment.
Neighborhood Legal Services filed a suit Thursday in U.S. District Court for Rahman "Ronnie" McSween, who constantly faces schoolmates' taunts about his severe buck teeth.
"This is a generalized lawsuit regarding a child with a very serious problem, and the county has done everything in its power to see that treatment is given," said County Attorney Patrick H. NeMoyer. "And what they're trying to do is say there are hundreds of people waiting out there in desperate need of treatment, and that simply is not true."
The class-action suit accuses county and state officials of violating government regulations on orthodontic care for Medicaid children. Rahman and hundreds of other children, the suit claims, are affected by the alleged violations that have resulted in delays of almost two years before some children are able to get braces and other care.
The suit charges the county with violating state Health Department regulations covering orthodontics, which require the county to approve or disapprove requests for such care within 30 days.
The county conducts dental screening clinics four times a year to determine which children will receive care at Medicaid expense. These clinics see no more than 50 children at a time, regardless of how many requests are received by the county Social Services Department. After being screened, children are then treated at state-operated dental clinics like the one on the University at Buffalo's South Campus.
Michael McSween, Rahman's father, made a request for his son's orthodontic care April 13 but was told the boy would have to wait until August 1991 before he could attend a screening clinic, according to court papers.
After McSween complained, the timetable was moved up to August 1990.
Gary Wolfe, director of the Physically Handicapped Children's Program, said the waiting process is common.