North Carolina Bill 655 Reveals Divide Over Dental Practice Management

North Carolina Bill 655 Reveals Divide Over Dental Practice ManagementOver the past month, The Wealthy Dentist has been covering the North Carolina Dental Management Bill 655 and the reactions by dentists on both sides of the debate.

The bill, which is heavily supported by the North Carolina Dental Society and their state dental examiners board, attempts to place tougher restrictions on dental management companies.

Opponents argue that dental management companies help dentists with expensive dental practice start-up costs and dental practice management operations which allow dentists to spend more quality time with their patients.

The bill attempts to toughen a state law that stipulates how dentists own and control their dental practices.

Last week, the Obama administration joined a list of big-name Republicans like Jeb Bush, Bill Frist, Haley Barbour, and Tommy Thompson, in opposition to the bill.

The bill already passed the North Carolina Senate and now rests with the House, where leaders have stalled in their decision about the bill and its potential repercussions to dentists.

No other state in the union has attempted to implement such restrictions on dental practice management, or sought such inclusive authority over how dentists manage their business.

Fueled by the recent reports of several dental management companies coming under scrutiny by authorities in five states to investigate allegations of excessive Medicaid billings, attention has now turned to North Carolina Bill 655.

Lisa Ward, director of government affairs for the North Carolina Dental Society told Bloomberg News, “They’re looking at North Carolina as their test case and they’ll do anything they can to win here.” Yet Ward herself has admitted hiring five lobbyists and spending about $400,000 in support of the bill.

The Federal Trade Commission is against the bill and backs the use of dental management companies. They expressed concern that the regulations in the North Carolina Bill could reduce the number of dentists practicing in under served communities throughout North Carolina.

A recent The Wealthy Dentist survey revealed a major reason dentists would not choose dentistry again is having to deal with the management aspect of their dental practice. Dentists want to practice dentistry.

Having a dental management company manage the administrative part of their practice allows dentists to do what they were trained to do: be a dentist.

Dental Practice Management Is Being Threatened in North Carolina

Dental practice management is being challenged in the North Carolina legislature.

Last year, The Wealthy Dentist twice reported on the story of the North Carolina Senate Bill 655 that would require the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners to examine all business contracts entered into by dental practices in their state.

Our first article, Dentists Beware: The Government May Want To Tell You How To Manage Your Practice detailed information concerning inclusive authority over how dentists manage their business.

The second The Wealthy Dentist article, Dental Practice Management: North Carolina Senate Bill Wants Dentists To Do It Themselves discussed the dentists’ responses to the impact this bill could have on their dental practices.

The measure has already passed the state Senate and has moved on to the House, where leaders have appointed a special interim committee to study the bill and its potential repercussions to dentists.

Reports have surfaced that the legislative proposal likely to be heard this May. The basics of the bill is intended to restrict contracts dentists can build with dental service organizations and give the Dental Board control of how dentists in North Carolina run their practices.

With much at stake for dentists and dental management companies who oppose the bill, many have joined forces to form the Alliance for Access to Dental Care, a group lobbying the legislature to stop the bill, while the The Dental Society’s political action committee, a lobby for the North Carolina Dental Board, is spearheading support for the bill.

Both sides have spent considerable sums of money lobbying on their own behalf.

As the debate heats up, both recently released TV advertisements supporting their positions —

The Dental Society –

The Alliance for Access to Dental Care –

The North Carolina Office of Research, Demonstrations and Rural Health Development reports that there is a severe shortage of primary health care providers in North Carolina, particularly in the State’s rural areas.

Will limiting the ability for dental management companies to work with dentists in North Carolina further strain access to dental care?

Opponents to the bill believe if the current legislation passes, it will force some dental practices to close, put people out of work and limit dental care access for many families across North Carolina.

Whereas those in support of the bill argue that the legislation is necessary to block for-profit, investor-owned corporations from negotiating service contracts that, in their opinion, take ownership and control of dental practices away from licensed dentists in North Carolina.

What are your thoughts on dental practice management companies? Are they a help to your dental practice, or do they allow large corporations to unfairly compete with dentists?


Appeals Court Says Yes to Dentist Lawsuit Against Patient for Online Review

court of appeals rules on negative online reviewsA new ruling by the 6th District Court of Appeals in California allows a dentist’s defamation lawsuit to move forward against a former patient who posted negative review of the doctor on Yelp.

In the same ruling, the court also concluded that the popular consumer review site Yelp is protected under the anti-SLAPP law, and Yelp can recover legal fees stemming from the doctor also suing Yelp over the same negative review.

Let the legal wrangling begin . . .

As reported in the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, the courtroom drama began back in 2009, when Yvonne Wong, a pediatric dentist from Foster City, California decided to sue Tai Jing and Jia Ma, who are parents of a boy she treated. The parents, unhappy with Sr. Wong’s treatment of their son allegedly posted a negative review about the doctor on the online review website Yelp.

The parent’s biting online review of Dr. Wong centered around the use of silver filings and laughing gas on their son, but the parents also wrote that Dr. Wong never warned that their son’s filing material could contain mercury and that other patients should “avoid her like a disease!”

Yelp gets involved . . .

After denying the parent’s claim Dr. Wong sued both the parents along with Yelp for what she felt was defamation of her character. She also wanted Yelp to remove the negative review.

She ultimately ended up withdrawing her lawsuit against Yelp after discovering that Yelp is protected under the Communications Decency Act, which bans recovery against websites for publishing third-party content.

Defendants Tai Jing and Jia Ma’s initial motion to strike down the dentist’s lawsuit was only successful in that the court allowed the case against Jia Ma to be dismissed, but ruled that Dr. Wong’s libel claim against Tai Jing could move forward.

Burden of proof on dentist . . .

The appellate court’s decision is important because it defines that the burden of proof in a defamation case and will set the tone for future lawsuits over negative online reviews. The burden of proof does not fall to the individuals accused of posting an online review to prove that they had not done so, but instead falls with the the plaintiff to prove who posted the review.

Some feel the doctor over-reacted and the publicity surrounding the lawsuit will be bad for her dental business, while others feel consumers need to stick to the facts and consider their words when posting a negative online review.

If you were Dr. Wong, how would you have handled an online review you felt was libelous? Is it bad PR for a dentist to sue a former patient over a negative online review?

For more information regarding this lawsuit, see How accurate is your Yelp review? and Court of Appeal Allows Dentist’s Libel Claim Based on Yelp Review.


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