One of the nation’s largest dental management chains, Aspen Dental, violated New York law by making decisions that should have been left to dentists and sharing profits with dental clinics, according to a settlement with the state’s attorney general.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched an investigation of the chain in 2013 after an investigative report by the Center for Public Integrity and PBS Frontline. The news report found that Aspen Dental, which targets low-income patients, pressured dentists to increase revenue by using high-pressure sales techniques. Many patients complained of being overcharged or given unnecessary treatments.
The attorney general investigation reached the same conclusions. He cited 300 consumer complaints since 2005 and internal company documents. The settlement calls for Aspen Dental to pay a $450,000 civil penalty and to overhaul the way it does business in New York.
Aspen Dental, based in East Syracuse, New York, serves nearly 500 dental practices in 30 states and reported annual revenue of $645 million. Forty of those clinics are in New York.
The company says it provides back-office support for dentists, who own the practices. But the attorney general found that Aspen Dental was coaching dentists on patient care issues and pressuring the offices to push additional treatments. Office managers and hygienists were paid bonuses to sell more treatments.