Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Here’s a challenge -

Here is the Laffer Associates Study that says DSO’s (Kool Smiles, Small Smiles, etc)  perform less procedures per patient than private dentists. It also says they steal less than money per patient than private dentists. Ok, it doesn’t use the word steal…  but still…. 

You can find a link to the raw data at the bottom of page 5 of Laffer’s study. Or at their dropbox here.  Or this dropbox here.

WARNING – if you have a copy saved as an .xls file instead of a .xlxs your speadsheet does NOT contain all the data! 

Here is the challenge – Debunk it!

According to the study they found 35 Texas Providers Identifiers for Kool Smiles in Texas. Considering Small Smiles used at a minimum 25 provider numbers for 4 of their dental centers in 2010, I betting there were a whole lot more than 35  numbers used for Kool Smiles and their many clinics in 2011.  Hell, there are at least 55 “providers” in the Indiana Kool Smiles centers.  It might have been 35 that could be identified, for Texas in 2011, but that’s the point, isn’t it?

Laffer says this about the data:

Data and Methodology
We were provided Medicaid claims paid data for the fiscal year 2011 by Kool Smiles, who had received these data from the Texas Medicaid Program via a Freedom of Information Act request. We did nothing to verify the authenticity or accuracy of these data.
Before going into the results of our analysis, let me provide a few definitions. In Texas, Medicaid covers children in families from no income up to 185% of the federal poverty level for children up to 1 year old, up to 133% of the federal poverty level for children from 1 year old to 5 years old, and up to 100% of the federal poverty level from children 6 years old to 19 years old.

Thus, the data contain all Medicaid claims arising from children aged zero through 19 years, 11 months in families with income up to the applicable multiple of the federal poverty level (the federal poverty level is an annual income of
$18,530 or less for a family of three as of 1/1/12), regardless of what type of dental provider treated the child.

We counted as a procedure every separate dental activity that was charged to Medicaid with a Medicaid billing code.
Unfortunately, the data did not contain a separate total count of patients accessing dental services. Instead, unique patient counts were provided for each Medicaid billing code. To derive an estimate of the total number of patients, we added the number of patients treated via each code for a prophylaxis cleaning and used that count as our number of unique patients.

We used this procedure for all DSOs and all non-DSOs as well.
Prophylaxis cleanings, or “prophies”, are the standard dental cleanings that every patient receives as part of a routine dental visit.24 These dental cleanings, which are typically billed under the same code each visit, provide a more reliable method for this patient count than other routine services, such as exams, which might be billed under different codes and lead to double counting. There are three codes for prophylaxis cleaning, each based on age: D1110 for patients 13 to 20 years old, D1120 for patients 6 months to 12 years old, and D0145, 25 a code specific to the Texas Health Steps program, for children under 3 years old.

The Medicaid data we received contained a count of clients who received the procedure associated with each Medicaid billing code, broken out by location of dental service (see below). Summing the number of clients receiving each prophylaxis procedure thus provides a proxy for the total number of unique patients treated under Medicaid in Texas in 2011.

Accordingly, we use “prophies,” a routine procedure administered with regularity, as the count for unique patients, or “patients,” as we’ll refer to them in this analysis.

Additionally, the data quite naturally did not explicitly identify which dentists were associated with DSOs. The amount of reimbursement doesn’t differ for DSO dentists and non-DSO dentists. In order to receive reimbursements for treatment
performed on Medicaid patients, however, a dentist must apply for and be assigned a Medicaid Texas Provider Identifier (TPI) number. We made a list of all of the DSOs we could identify that do business in Texas, and any TPI that filed a claim using an identified DSO address was counted as being a DSO dentist (see Appendix A for a full listing of all DSOs included in our calculations). All other TPIs were counted as non-DSO dentists. In the process, we dropped the claims data for any TPI that filed with Texas Medicaid but was associated with an address that was not within or immediately bordering Texas.

An important caveat is that the total population of DSOs within the data represents office locations, and not individual dentists. In going through the data, we were unable to find multiple dentists working at the same DSO office billing
separately. With few exceptions for non-DSOs, it seems a rule that most group practitioners bill under a single base (7-digit) TPI instead of their unique and individual 9-digit TPI.

Basically, I read this to say “GIGO” – Garbage In – Garbage Out. So someone spent a hell of a lot of money for a report that means nothing and I mean nothing. Goes to show you though, tell a company what you need it to say, and they can get the data to make it so.

As well, these DSO’s work very hard to hide the fact they are operating as a DSO, since it’s illegal, so the number of non-DSO dentists numbers have to be distorted, right?  Like I said, GIGO!