A two-year investigation by the U.S. Senate concludes that so-called dental management companies have provided substandard care to low-income children covered by Medicaid, while over billing the joint federal-state program.
The bipartisan report goes so far as to recommend that the company that operates Small Smiles dental clinics should be booted from the Medicaid program. Small Smiles clinics, which focus almost exclusively on children covered by Medicaid, include locations in Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka.
The Senate report says the company incentivizes dentists to do more work on children’s teeth than they really need as a way to boost revenue.
“I don’t recall that I’ve received any complaints, and certainly there’s no open public records regarding any complaints about the franchising operations since these laws went into place in 2011," says Lane Hemsley, head of the Kansas Dental Board.
Kansas law requires franchised clinics to be owned by a dentist licensed in Kansas.
The role of the management companies is limited to the non-medical aspects of the clinics. But the Senate report says contracts the company requires render the “owner dentist” an owner in name only, and almost all profits go to the company.
What’s more, according to the report, dentists are required to treat a high volume of patients, which limits the quality of care they can provide.