This is a federal lawsuit, filed in New York state yesterday.
Aspen Dental Management and the private equity firm that controls it illegally operate dental clinics across the country and engage in aggressive, misleading profit-driven practices that cause patients economic harm, claims a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in New York.
East Syracuse-based Aspen and Leonard Green and Partners are violating laws that require clinics to be owned by dentists actively performing procedures onsite to prevent business interests from trumping those of patients, according to court papers filed at U.S. District Court in Albany.
The suit is on behalf of 11 people in 11 states, but their lawyers are seeking class action status that could cover tens of thousands of current and former patients and untold monetary damages.
They argue that the structure of Aspen Dental puts a premium on getting patients to consent to expensive treatment plans through aggressive sales pitches after they’ve been attracted to the clinics by free exam and X-ray promotions.
Lawyers Brian Cohen and Jeffrey Norton said the goal is to maximize profits for the non-dentist owners of Aspen by using dentists as “sham” owners of clinics, some of which operate too far away, including in other states, for the dentists to practice there. That, they say, violates New York’s law against “unlawful corporate practice of medicine.”
Aspen’s “so-called ‘Practice Owners’ are nothing more than de facto employees and/or independent contractors” of the company, which controls its 358 clinics’ marketing, credit offers, hiring, training and bookkeeping, according to the court papers.
This is an interesting legal complaint since it is federal and may involve a class action across many states.
In California, there is a complex set of laws in the Dental Practice Act regarding corporate practice and ownership of dental offices. However, some states have banned the outright ownership of dental offices to anyone, but a dentist.
I think America is ready for the debate as to whether dentists should be the sole owners of dental practices. If not, then who will be ultimately responsible financially and for patient care.
I will cover more of this lawsuit, as it progresses.