Private-equity driven dentists accused of "dentally abusing" poor kids on Medicaid with painful, unnecessary procedures

Hedge funds in America have backed several dental practices, and Medicaid and parents allege that this has led to a rash of "dental abuse" of poor children, who are seen by dentists at school, without parental consent, for invasive and painful (and expensive) procedures performed by dentists. Critics say the dentists have to meet quotas in order to attain the valuations set by the private equity funds who call the shots. A North Carolina bill aimed at fighting this practice is being fought by three funds (Leonard Green, Court Square Capital Partners, and Levine Leichtman Capital Partners) who've raised $1.1 million to kill it.

Sydney P. Freedberg writes in Bloomberg:

Isaac Gagnon stepped off the school bus sobbing last October and opened his mouth to show his mother where it hurt.

She saw steel crowns on two of the 4-year-old's back teeth. A dentist's statement in his backpack showed he had received two pulpotomies, or baby root canals, along with the crowns and 10 X-rays — all while he was at school. Isaac, who suffers from seizures from a brain injury in infancy, didn't need the work, according to his mother, Stacey Gagnon…

In August 2010, Green's lawyer appeared before the Arizona dental board to answer a complaint that ReachOut did unnecessary drilling on a Phoenix student's teeth — even after the student's mother told the company she was seeing a family dentist and didn't need any work…

There were two children with the same name at the school, and the work was done on the wrong Sabrina Martinez, Green's lawyer, Jeff Tonner, told the dental board. Although the board agreed that work was done on the wrong child, it dismissed the case, noting Davila had complained about "the business entity," not a dentist…

In San Diego, Tina Richardson's third grader, Alexander Henry, came home in March with four baby teeth missing after a school session with a ReachOut-affiliated dentist that was so painful he "waved his arms frantically," "pushed everyone off him" and "bled so badly that they had to send him to the nurse's office," according to her complaint with the state dental board. Among other things, Richardson said the consent process wasn't valid.

Richardson said Alexander had seen a dentist nine days earlier who didn't recommend any teeth pulling. Although she signed a consent form in September covering many procedures including extractions, she said she didn't sign another one that came in November seeking permission to take out three teeth. No one from ReachOut called to discuss the proposed procedures, she said.

Dental Abuse Seen Driven by Private Equity Investments

(via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Reeve 12265, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 27337026@N03's photostream)