Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Private Equity Firms warn Texas Dental Association to leave our “glory hole” alone

TexasCoalition[4]AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Stressing the need for Texas dentists to work together to help public officials curb Medicaid fraud and expand access to affordable, high-quality dental care, dentists from throughout Texas recently sent a letter to the Texas Dental Association (TDA) concerning its recent testimony before the Texas House Public Health Committee.

The letter, signed by more than 60 Texas dentists from across the state, takes issue with the October 15th testimony of Dr. Richard Black before the committee. Dr. Black, on behalf of TDA, made what the dentists characterized as "troubling" and "unsubstantiated statements" pertaining to Texas dentists' 30-year history of utilizing non-clinical administrative support services that enable them to spend more time with patients and less time on administrative tasks.

"As one might expect," the letter says, "the committee members pressed Dr. Black for evidence that would substantiate his accusations. Rather than offer any, Dr. Black instead called for legislation that would impose additional regulations and restrict dentists' access to non-clinical administrative support services."

Like the medical support services provided to physicians for decades, the letter explains, dental support services include facility maintenance, supply procurement, scheduling support, as well as accounting and marketing services: "Contracting for such non-clinical administrative services enables dentists like us to devote more time to the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective dental care to patients and spend less time on administrative duties. In addition, contracting with DSOs enables us to benefit from their economies of scale and bring state-of-the-art technology to our patients and communities, thereby improving patient access, safety, outcomes and convenience."

The letter noted that Dr. Black's allegations were "unsubstantiated," and "the legislation he seeks is unnecessary," citing the legal review performed by the past-chair of the Texas State Bar's Health Law Section, Elizabeth Rogers. Rogers found that legislation targeting dental support organizations is not warranted because the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (TSBDE) already has extensive existing authority to assure that dentists' clinical judgment is not influenced by unlicensed third parties.

In noting the TDA-sanctioned testimony "was a significant departure from the focus of the hearing - fraud within the Medicaid dental program and solutions to strengthen the program," the dentists reiterated the need to address in the strongest possible manner the fraud that was perpetrated by bad actors on Texas Medicaid.

"That is why we are so concerned that the legislation Dr. Black seeks is a thinly-veiled deflection from the real issues confronting the Legislature: ensuring future Medicaid fraud does not happen and that TSBDE fully and energetically carries out its already extensive authority," continues the letter. "Indeed, imposition of the unneeded regulations called for by Dr. Black would do nothing to strengthen Texas Medicaid. Instead, it would simply serve an anti-competitive objective: restricting hundreds of dentists' access to administrative support services, thereby both raising the cost and reducing the availability of dental care in Texas."

Texas currently ranks among the bottom eight states in the nation in the number of dentists per 10,000 residents, according to Kaiser State Health Facts. Additionally, nearly 20 percent of residents live in the 115 Texas counties that are Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas as designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and 46 Texas counties have no dentists whatsoever. Just as troubling, the dentists note that Texas' underserved dental care areas are increasing as the overall population of Texas expands.

"We see no justification for further limiting the availability of dental care in Texas or raising its cost by imposing the unnecessary legislation and regulations proposed by Dr. Black," concludes the letter. "Instead, we see a unique opportunity for us to work together to help public officials curb Medicaid fraud and ensure wide access to affordable, high-quality dental care."

As a result of the questions raised in their letter, the dentists said TDA is obliged to "clarify the position of the TDA to your membership, the Texas dental community, and the Texas Legislature."

"Our members and the dentists we serve fully support efforts by lawmakers and state officials to safeguard the state's Medicaid dental program," said Bill Noble, spokesperson for TCDSO. "Yet recent remarks by TDA will create unnecessary bureaucracy and misdirects attention away from the real issues at hand: putting an end to Medicaid dental fraud and ensuring that TSBDE fully carries out its already extensive authority to protect the quality and integrity of Texas dentistry."

"We urge the TDA to stand with their fellow dentists and reject anti-competitive legislation that will negatively impact business and oral health care in Texas," said Noble. "We encourage the TDA to work together with their fellow dentists to strengthen the Texas Medicaid program and ensure access to affordable, high-quality oral health care for Texans."

Texas Coalition of Dental Support Organizations mission is to support dentists in the efficient delivery of affordable, high-quality dental care to millions of Texans annually. Members include Affordable Care, Aspen Dental, DentalOne Partners, Dental Group Practice Association (DGPA), Great Expressions, Heartland Dental Care, Pacific Dental Services, Inc., Smile Brands Inc. (Castle Dental and Monarch Dental) and Western Dental.

SOURCE Texas Coalition of Dental Support Organizations