Senators Seek to Stop Medicaid Payments to Dental Clinics that Circumvent Oversight Regulations
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of Judiciary Committee, are calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ban dental clinics from participating in the Medicaid program if the dental clinics circumvent state laws designed to ensure that only licensed dentists own dental practices. The request by the senators comes in the wake of a year-long investigation into allegations of abusive treatment of children in clinics controlled by corporate investors rather than dentists.
The report, “Joint Staff Report on the Corporate Practice of Dentistry in the Medicaid Program” released by Sens. Baucus and Grassley, focuses on dental management companies organized as a corporation or limited liability company that works with dentists in multiple states. The investigation found a failure to meet quality and compliance standards, including unnecessary treatment on children, the improper administration of anesthesia, providing care without proper consent and overcharging the Medicaid program.
According to the report, while many clinics technically meet state-level rules requiring their owners to be licensed dentists, the clinics nonetheless have placed control of their operations in the hands of corporate investors and the result is a system that “places profits above patient care.” Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia ban corporate dentistry.
Investigators looked at five dental chains that allegedly used deceptive business models which gave managers, rather than dentists, control over the clinics. They included the following:
- Church Street Health Management (Small Smiles)
- ReachOut HealthCare America
- NCDR (Kool Smiles)
- Heartland Dental Care
- Aspen Dental Management
The report focused on CSHM (Small Smiles) and ReachOut HealthCare America (RHA), because both companies treat Medicaid children almost exclusively. Sens. Baucus and Grassley urged the Inspector General for HHS to take action to stop taxpayer reimbursement of dental management companies that operate in this manner. According to the report, “when states can’t hold owners accountable to maintain a professional standard of care, then clinics are more likely to fail to meet basic quality and compliance standards, putting the children who should be helped at risk.”
For a summary on recent federal legislative and regulatory news about oral health, dental education, and dental research, read our ADEA Washington Update.
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