Thursday, November 15, 2018


Contact: Bracken Killpack
Practice at Smiles 4 Kids, Kids Dental, Family Orthodontics Put Patients at Risk
and Cost Low-Income Families
TACOMA – November 13, 2018 – The Washington State Dental Association (WSDA) has filed a new complaint with the Washington State Department of Health, alleging dental clinics operated by Lone Peak Management Group, LLC (Lone Peak) are engaging in dangerous and deceptive practices.
The WSDA complaint is just the latest complaint against Lone Peak, which operates more than a dozen clinics in Washington state, specializes in pediatric dentistry, and serves a high percentage of low-income, Medicaid-eligible patients.

The WSDA complaint was filed after research into Lone Peak practices. It alleges that the chain arranged a kickback scheme that generated nearly $170 for Lone Peak every time a patient was administered general anesthesia. Disguised as a “facility use fee” charged to the anesthesia provider, these payments far exceeded fair market value of the record-keeping Lone Peak provided the anesthesia provider, generating substantial additional profit for Lone Peak.

Dentists and staff in Lone Peak offices also were directed to engage in a system of self-referral to affiliated clinics for specialty dental services like oral surgery and orthodontia. This system ignored patient preferences and in many cases resulted in families traveling significant distances to affiliated clinics when other qualified providers were nearby.

Internal Lone Peak documents cited in the complaint clearly demonstrate the profit motive behind this policy: “Patients in your office should NOT be given options as to where they would like to go for their wisdom teeth extractions,” reads one email. “Regardless of how near/far the office … referring patients anywhere else is sending OUR business and money away and is therefore unacceptable.”

Previously, Seattle’s KIRO 7 TV reported on another whistleblower complaint against Lone Peak, filed by a former office manager who left the company after refusing to follow directives from company managers to re-use dental mouthpieces that are intended for single-use only.
Internal company emails cited in the whistleblower complaint show Lone Peak putting profits ahead of patient safety. In one email regarding the reuse of mouthpieces, a Lone Peak executive lamented the fact that “our expenses would go through the roof if we didn’t find a way around” the single-use requirement.

The emails also describe how Lone Peak ignored concerns raised by at least one clinic dentist about the reuse of single-use mouthpieces. Lone Peak agents directed dental office staff to deceive that dentist: “We should probably hide our open Isolites (mouthpieces) on the days we know she is coming in,” wrote a Lone Peak agent. “In the meantime, just make her happy when she is around, and then go back to business as usual when she leaves.”

“The concerns brought forward by the whistleblower and uncovered by our team are deeply troubling and represent a dangerous corporate intrusion in the doctor-patient relationship,” said Dr. Chris Delecki, president of the Washington State Dental Association. “This speaks to what can happen when corporations are allowed to directly or indirectly own dental practices. In this environment, corporations can direct, question and over-rule the decisions dentists make in how to best treat their patients. This is why our association has consistently advocated for state laws to prohibit this type of interference and why we have engaged in bringing these practices to light.”

Washington law prohibits corporations, including dental service organizations (DSOs), from practicing dentistry, which includes directing a dentist’s treatment plan; limiting or imposing requirements on how a dentists uses equipment or materials in the provision of treatment; or limiting or imposing requirements on the materials, supplies, instruments or equipment a dentist deems necessary to provide diagnoses or treatments consistent with the standard of care.

Lone Peak is a DSO headquartered in Colorado that manages approximately 50 dental clinics in 12 states, including Washington. Lone Peak is owned by Tailwind Capital, a private equity firm whose stated mission is to transition businesses to become “larger, more profitable enterprises.”

Documents received by WSDA indicate that certain executives of Lone Peak may also have been involved with the Small Smiles dental chain DSO, and a number of Lone Peak dental offices formerly may have been Small Smiles dental offices. Small Smiles was included in a scathing 2013 US Senate report that found the chain performed unnecessary services and that its business model deceptively gave managers rather than dentists control over the clinics. The report also recommended that Small Smiles be excluded from participating in the federal Medicaid program. 

Small Smiles and its parent company, Church Street Health Management (CHSM) have faced litigation before. In 2012, Small Smiles paid $24 million to settle allegations of Medicaid fraud brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. And in 2015, Small Smiles agreed to pay nearly $39 million in claims for alleged “unnecessary, inappropriate, unsafe, and excessive dental procedures.” Church Street Health Management has since declared bankruptcy.
The most recent complaints here in Washington also name Justin VanBibber, a Utah-based dentist who serves as the nominal head of the clinics engaged in the kickbacks and the mouthpiece reuse practice. He is listed as a practicing dentist on Lone Peak clinic websites in Washington, but the profile for his South Jordan, Utah practice lists him as a resident of Utah.
The Washington State Department of Health has opened active investigations into Lone Peak’s and VanBibber’s practices.

About the WSDA
The Washington State Dental Association’s 4,400 member dentists are committed to solutions that prevent disease and ensure quality oral health for all Washingtonians. WSDA empowers its members to advocate for and provide optimal oral health care.