Thursday, May 17, 2012

American’s Dental Health is at Risk: The true crisis in dentistry

As Bloomberg reported today, Private Equity is seen as the driving force behind abusive dentistry and Medicaid fraud. Little Isaac Gagnon, is still suffering from night terror from the abuse he endured while he was supposed to be safe at school.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram followed saying Texas taxpayer are getting hosed for unneeded dental procedures which amounts to Medicaid fraud.

Byron Harris of WFAA in Dallas has been reporting about this for months.

However, it is “We The People” who are picking up the tab and enriching Private Equity firms coffers into the billions of dollars. But that is not the biggest price being paid.

The biggest price of all is the dental health of each and every American!

This is not a Medicaid patient only problem. The same driving force is behind places like Heartland, MidWest, Pacific Dental, BrightNow, Aspen Dental, Affordable Dentures, Comfort Dental and now Wal-Mart is getting in on the action. The list goes on.

Aren’t there laws against this? Yes, there certainly are. Is your state dental board protecting its citizens?  99% of state dental boards seem to be more influenced by the powerful Private Equity firms than the American citizens they are supposed to protect.

Is there any wonder why Private Equity firms have ponied up millions to fight a bill in North Carolina that would close loop holes and further define the laws already in place. The fact they are fighting against this so hard only proves what Bloomberg reported.

The neglect of duty by state dental boards was made abundantly clear last month with the Texas Legislature committee on Public Health brought the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners on the carpet, asking hard questions. The TSBDE’s excuses were off the chart as they say, as they were accused of ineptitude by some reports after the hearing.

At the April 11 hearing Glenn Parker, acting Executive Director said, “We have no authority to regulate clinics or clinic owners.” (he was the acting director that day, because the official one, “resigned” three weeks before the hearing) Texas Public Health Committee Hearing April 11, 2012April 11, 2012 Hearing Minutes

Currently Texas is the hotbed for Medicaid fraud. Likely because they doubled most of the reimbursement rates in 2007 hoping to increase the number of dentists accepting Medicaid. Sadly, what it increased was fraud and child abuse.

Mr. Parker said, “To the degree [the fraud] on which that happens we don’t really know.”

“We do not know how many clinics there are in Texas, dental clinics.”

“We don’t know where they are”

“We don’t know who the legal own of them is, cause none of that is in the Dental Practice Act to require it.”

Rep. Charles Schwertner asked if there were the same safeguard against the corporate practice of dentistry as there were medicine.

Lisa Jones, Enforcement Director of the TSBDE said, “..we don’t regulate the clinics in any way. We have no jurisdiction over them whatsoever. We don’t keep statistics on how many clinics there are in Texas or how they operate.”

Representative Carol Alvarado, asked,  “If you guys have been concerned about this, what have you all done?”

That’s when there was a deadly silence.

Texas dental board in not the only state dental board doing nothing. In fact there is an article in some dental publication or website every day promoting these private equity firms practicing dentistry under the guise of being a “management company”.

As, Isaac Gagnon’s story in highlighted in the Bloomberg piece there are thousand of children being abused, strapped down, held, and forced to endure torture. Torture the military is not even allowed to perform.

As, James Moriarty, a Texas attorney representing hundreds of children who have been victims of the abuses from overtreatment, said at the Texas hearing last month, “You can’t have a medical system based on maximizing profits by a care giver. We have a care system in this country based on the professional judgment of professionally trained qualified people and we’ve turned it over to Morgan Stanley and the Carlyle Group.”

“They take these little children, two years old, three years old and four years olds, they take them back in the back and they put them in an immobilizing device called a papoose. They have three or four adults hold these children down while they do dental procedures rapidly. They do 10 or 12 stainless steel caps in half an hour.”

“They won’t let the parents be present because the parent would be tempted, in Texas, to pistol whip them.”

He is exactly right.

Where does your dental board stand? You may want to ask. One place to start asking is here, at the American Association of Dental Boards.

Maybe your dental board is not the problem, maybe it’s your state Attorney General? They have the power to stop this on a dime.

There is not doubt some agency is helping private equity firms bilk you out of billions while putting your health at risk.

One of the companies in the Bloomberg article, Church Street Health Management who operates somewhere between 68 and 72 dental clinics in 22 states is getting some favoritism from somewhere.

In January 2010 they agreed to pay $24 million (over 5 years) to “settle” fraud allegations. Basically to stop further investigation into the company. They also sign a Corporate Integrity Agreement which clearly stated that payment would be due in full if the company sold. 

According to bankruptcy documents filed a sale has taken place, in sorts. But amazingly all the states Church Street Health Management still owes a great deal of money to, “waived the accelerated payment”. Waiving millions of dollars owed to Federal and State governments sure smells like a “bailout” to me.

So, you’re a dentist and work for a corporate dental management company and, think you are off the hook, think again!

See what the Iowa Department of Health says about that, here.