September 21, 2016
Dear Author and Editor:
Among a number of misportrayals, Michael W Davis’ August 2016 blog post entitled “Toxic Troika for Dental Patients” wrongly implies that Dr. Jason Ehtessabian engaged in unethical behavior by testifying on behalf of the Colorado Dental Association on SB16-009. This accusation borders on defamation and could not be further from the truth.
Dr. Ehtessabian was asked to testify on SB16-009 as an official representative of the Colorado Dental Association, and did not testify of his own interest. While Dr. Ehtessabian once worked for Comfort Dental – the party who advanced SB16-009 – nearly 10 years ago, Dr. Ehtessabian has reported that he had a personally difficult relationship with the franchise. He declined to take an ownership stake in the company when offered the opportunity, and certainly does not have any personal interest in advancing their cause. He does not have any current or ongoing financial connection with the franchise. Contrary to the insinuation of the article, Dr. Ehtessabian actually took the high road in overcoming his personal history to testify on this bill, because the bill had broader helpful implications for the entire Colorado dental community. To imply otherwise is wrong and irresponsible.
As previously shared with the author, the Colorado Dental Association participated with SB16-009 to ensure that Colorado’s fee splitting regulations continued to be as stringent as possible, while also addressing a recent Colorado court case that would have potentially prohibited dentists from paying for basic business services like accounting services, payroll, website hosting and more.
Allowing dentists to continue to engage business consultants is necessary to the efficient operation of our members’ practices, and was never the intended subject of the precursor Section 12-35-129 (1)(v) of Colorado’s Dental Practice Act. A court extension of the intent of this section required a bill to prevent disruptions to all types of dental practices – from large to small. Federal and state anti-kickback prohibitions continue to protect the public from inappropriate marketing and recruiting schemes, as does the revised section of the Dental Practice Act.
The Colorado Dental Association specifically asks that a formal correction to the article be published stating that Dr. Jason Ehtessabian is not affiliated with Comfort Dental and that the following statement be retracted:
“Dr. Ehtessabian is also affiliated with Comfort Dental in the company’s arranged franchise capacity. No one seemed concerned about Dr. Ehtessabian’s or Mr. Bear’s obvious conflict of interest. No representative of small business dentistry attended. No independent representative of the CDA attended, who wasn’t affiliated with corporate dentistry. Obviously, the fix was in against the public welfare in favor of corporate dentistry, corrupt government, and sold-out organized dentistry.”
We also understand that in conversations subsequent to the article, Dr. Davis has accused Dr. Ehtessabian of violating Section 4.E. of the ADA Code of Ethics by testifying on SB16-009. This accusation is completely out of line. First, Section 4.E. of the ADA Code of Ethics defines “fee splitting” to be directly tied to inappropriate marketing and recruiting schemes, such as kickbacks and rebates. Section 4.E. does not at all address payments for business management services and consultants, the issue addressed through SB16-009. SB16-009 and resulting Colorado Statute continue to prohibit the inappropriate advertising, marketing and recruitment schemes considered in Section 4.E. of the ADA Code of Ethics. There is nothing in the ADA Code of Ethics that explicitly addresses payments to franchises or business consultants, which was the topic of SB16-009. Likewise, an accusation that SB16-009 conflicted with Section 4.E. of the ADA Code of Ethics is inherently out of line. Further, even if Section 4.E. of the ADA Code of Ethics was applicable to this situation, Dr. Ehtessabian testified in an official capacity as a CDA representative, so any accusation of an ethical violation would need to be levied against the organization and not the individual.
We further request that Dr. Davis also issue a formal apology to Dr. Ehtessabian, a representative of small business dentistry, based on the errors in the article and cease making ethical accusations against him as outlined above.
Greg Hill, J.D., CAE
Colorado Dental Association