The New York attorney general has announced a settlement with Aspen Dental Management that will see the company paying a $450,000 penalty, remove itself from any clinical decisions within its practices, not split patients’ fees with the clinics and make it clear to consumers that the management company is not a provider of dental services.
Amid claims that the company targets managing practices in low income areas, as well as that it pressurised dentists to increase revenue by using high-pressure sales techniques, the landmark fine will also see it change its mode of operation through the means mentioned above.
The investigation into Aspen Dental follows over 300 complaints from patients in the New York area. The investigations found that the management company directly influenced day-to-day running of practices, which is against the law for it to do.
An attorney general’s office news release stated: “The investigation revealed that Aspen Dental did not merely provide arms-length, back-end business and administrative support to these independent dental practices. Rather, Aspen Dental Management has developed what amounts to a chain of dental practices technically owned by individual dentists but which, in violation of New York law, were subject to extensive control by Aspen Dental Management.”
An example of their interference which, in effect, dictated patient care, according to the attorney general, was sending “Hygiene Service Announcements” to dental hygienists which directed them to sell more products and services to patients.
The President of the American Dental Association, Maxine Feinberg, welcomed the ruling, saying: “The dentist’s primary obligation is to put the needs of the patient first. The ADA strongly advocates for non-interference in clinical decision-making and we’re pleased to see that this agreement supports this view. Decisions about dental care should be between the patient and the dentist.”
Aspen Dental Management has taken a dim view of the Attorney General’s Press Release, denying many of its claims but not disputing the ruling. They commented: “We are deeply disappointed with the characterisation of Aspen Dental Management… Contrary to the headline of the press release, ADMI does not, nor has it ever, made decisions about clinical care for the 1.2 million patients who visited independently owned and operated Aspen Dental-branded practices in New York State over the past 10 years.
“With ADMI supporting the administrative and nonclinical aspects of their business, dentists are free to do what they do best: care for their patients.”