Private Equity firms practice torture dentistry on four year olds: Poverty is big business
Bloomberg.com had an incredible story on May 17th and if you haven’t seen it you should. You can find it at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-17/dental-abuse-seen-driven-by-private-equity-investments.html). Unbelievable fraud, pain and torture, using children as commodities to profit private equity investors are all detailed in this incredible story of late stage capitalism and the culture of parasitic cruelty that accompanies it. It is a story told many thousands of years ago by Plato in his parable, The Ring of Gyges (http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl201/modules/Philosophers/Plato/plato_dialogue_the_ring_of_gyges.html).
If one could put on a ring and become invisible would they do whatever they wanted? Do we tend towards justice or injustice and if it is the latter, then doesn’t there need to be regulations on behavior, especially behavior of those in power? Or, is it as the libertarians argue, we will always do what is right if left unregulated? Secrecy is a form of invisibility, as the story by Plato illustrates. And lack of regulations show us that Plato was speaking of our own societal level of evolution which, in my judgment, has not really made much headway since the time he wrote the Ring of Gyges.
As long as capitalism encloses the commons with the barbed wire of unregulated self-interests aimed solely at profit taking, humans can never hope to evolve, just become extinct. The story in Bloomberg’s, as cruel as it is revealing, seems to offer evidence of both what happens when The Ring is allowed to be worn by monopoly corporations in the libertarian netherworld and what happens when private equity firms run what were once public services.
It reeks of government funded torture for-profit
The story starts out with that of four year old Isaac Gagnon who stepped off his school bus sobbing last October and opened his mouth to show his mother where the pain emanated from. His mother looked inside his mouth and saw steel crowns on his back molars. 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 and all without the permission of his parents.“I was absolutely horrified,” said Gagnon, of Camp Verde, Arizona. “I never gave them permission to drill into my son’s mouth. They did it for profit” (ibid).
Private Equity torture firms on display
The boy was reported to have kicked and screamed while several ‘adults’ held him down on the dental table, according to another teacher’s aide, Stephanie Shultz who was quoted in the Bloomberg article . As if out of a hellish nightmare of a horror film, the boy was quoted as telling his mother: “The dentist man got me” (ibid).
Bloomberg goes on to report that the root canals were unnecessary and the number of X-rays was “excessive,”, this according to Bobby Lee Raber, a dentist in Prescott who reviewed the records for the Gagnons. Professional guidelines call for only four X-rays for a child Isaac’s age, Raber said.
In a written review Raber said Isaac should have been sedated to numb the pain and not held down. But not in the Gitmo culture of cruelty, disposability and torture we live in now. Every tooth is a buck and the best way to profit is to keep the costs of labor low. Isaac can be thankful that pliers were not used to pull the tooth right out of his head. The fact that adults held the four year old down brings us right back to the Milgram Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment).
Private Equity firms like Bain Capital and those coveted by Cory Booker, corporate huckster, provide the business model
Isaac’s case and others like it are supposedly under scrutiny by federal lawmakers and state regulators trying to determine whether a popular business model fueled by Wall Street money is soaking taxpayers and having a malign influence on dentistry. But don’t count on them; they are paid by the same Wall Street bribers that finance the racket now called dentistry for the ‘underserved children’. You might remember that it was CEO Donald Graham of the Washington Post, owner of Kaplan University that said that he was providing a ‘service’ to subprime college students by charging them $60,000 or more for worthless degrees devoid of any education. This is s similar case where poverty is big profit for the one percent.
You see, Isaac’s dentist was dispatched to his school by ReachOut Healthcare America, a dental management ‘services’ racket that’s in the portfolio of Morgan Stanley Private Equity and operates in 22 states and has dealt with 1.5 million patients. Reachout works all kinds of dental rackets, not just dentistry for school programs. They ‘service’ the military, children and seniors, all paid for by Medicaid which the corporations use to transfer public wealth to Wall Street coffers.
Bloomberg says that management companies are at the center of a U.S. Senate inquiry, and audits, investigations and civil actions in six states over allegations of unnecessary procedures, low-quality treatment and the unlicensed practice of dentistry. Kaplan University was the subject of so many investigations one could lose count and it still is, all to no avail for the judicial system is as corrupt as the for-profit equity run dentistry outfit and Wall Street-run Kaplan University. Graham spent one million dollars trying to fend off regulations.
Private-Equity Purchases and management firms
Companies like Reachout don’t just extract teeth from unwitting little four year olds sent to public school with the idea they might learn and then find themselves held down for Nazi type dentistry by private sector workers; their main job is to extract capital for their private equity investors and lots of it. ReachOut is one of at least 25 such dental ‘management-services’ companies bought or backed by private-equity firms in the last decade. Dentists contract with the companies for marketing, scheduling, staff recruitment, supplies and other services. The companies account for about 12,000, or 8 percent, of U.S. dentists, according to Thomas A. Climo, a Las Vegas dental consultant (ibid).
Bloomberg reports that some of them have been riding a boom in Medicaid outlays on dentistry, which rose 63 percent to $7.4 billion between 2007 and 2010, outstripping the 4.9 percent growth in other dental spending. ReachOut and several of its private equity-backed rivals seek patients like Isaac Gagnon, who are covered by Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor and disabled (ibid). they love the poor, disabled and disenfranchised for like Pawn Shops, Kaplan University, The University of Phoenix, prisons and the whole of American society this is how they make their money. These predatory corporations get paid for each tooth they extract, each kid that is duped into registering for phony colleges, and each usurious loan. In fact, if it wasn’t for the poor and disenfranchised these hideous corporations couldn’t survive.
The private equity industry has stepped up its investment in dental management in the last five years partly because health care was one of the few areas that grew through the recession, said M. Alec Parker, executive director of the North Carolina Dental Society.
Wall Street buyout firms have also been attracted to dental practices because they are less regulated than physician groups, according to Sandy Steever, an editor with Irving Levin Associates in Norwalk, Connecticut, which tracks health-care transactions (ibid).
Like Donald Graham, CEO of sub-prime Kaplan University, these private dental firms say they do seniors, kids and members of the military a favor with their for-profit services but as little Isaac and many other cases show, they are in fact dens of iniquity, the promise that capitalism really fulfills to commodify everything and sell it.
Bloomberg states that after years of complaints that the poor were being deprived of such care under Medicaid, public pressure and class-action lawsuits opened the floodgates. Texas’s Medicaid dental outlays tripled to $1.24 billion between 2007 and 2010, as fees were boosted so more dentists would accept patients. Indiana, Connecticut, Maryland and Tennessee also boosted reimbursements. Sure, they set up a neo-liberal scheme whereby public wealth was transferred to private pig troughs under the auspices of “compassionate conservativism”.
Meanwhile with dentists graduating with student debt that they can never hope to pay, often topping $300,000, Bloomberg reports that these dentists:
“can’t get the loans they need to start their own practices,” said Bryan J. Shanahan, past president of the Arizona Dental Association. “So they look for work in a corporate setting where they get immediate cash flow (ibid).
They become serfs for the new nobility, the corporate oligarchs and the new world order that is being constructed under our noses. We learn quickly how to live in the back alleys of the corporate capitalist system working daily to pay off debt and suffering the numbness and alienation that goes with living behind the yellow tape of a life of crime.
Working ‘School Hours’
Bloomberg also speaks of the profits to be made working the public school hours. Yes, every little child needs to be seen by Reachout or some such private for-profit predatory parasite for the game is a numbers game. Dental management firms can deliver patients and a six-figure income by sending teams to schools where they can treat Medicaid-eligible students in volume — as many as 30 children in one visit. A ReachOut recruiting ad last year promised “15+ patients/day” and “$120K/year (+ bonus opportunity)” by working “school hours 1-5 days per week.” The ad appeared on the website of the University of Detroit’s dental school (ibid). You give them free ride to roam the public school buildings and corral the public kids and they’ll do the rest.
On May 2, All Smiles Dental Center Inc., a management company owned by Chicago-based Valor Equity Partners, filed for bankruptcy protection. Its hand was forced in part by a Texas Medicaid action cutting off payment to some of its clinics because of allegedly “excessive” and “inappropriate” orthodontic care, according to an All Smiles executive’s affidavit included in the filing. All Smiles was part of a state audit in which 90 percent of Medicaid claims for orthodontic braces were found to be invalid because they weren’t medically needed, according to Christine Ellis, one of the auditors (ibid).
Meanwhile more and more people sell their teeth to eat
While the cruelty of Wall Street acts itself out in the lives of little children like Isaac Gagnon, gold prices are so high now—over $1,500 an ounce—that consumers are cashing in anything they’ve got that has gold in it, including teeth, bridges, crowns and other dental work. Dave Crume, president of the National Pawnbrokers Association and executive vice president of Wichita, Kansas, pawnbroker A-OK Enterprises says:
“I’ve seen them pop the gold right out of their mouth. It’s a little awkward but I’ve see them take out a tooth” (http://abcnews.go.com/Business/gold-high-price-consumers-selling-teeth-bridges-coins/story?id=13421105).
This is America now, where the gold is extracted by torture dentistry by private equity firms whose partners pay no more than 15% in taxes. Who needs to extract surplus labor from workers when all you have to do is parasitically prey on them and financialize everything from their inner organs to their teeth?
This is huckster America where the back alleys of disenfranchised youth, adults, disabled people, those of color and the poor provide the riches for Wall Street by selling everything they have — even their teeth. Remember the tooth fairy? Now, the tooth fairy is the predatory equity investment partnership that instead of taking the teeth and leaving a quarter, they take the teeth and bill the government.
The article in Bloomberg is a must read for it shows just how a class-conscious ruling class profits off the 99% and then calls themselves the “job creators” and “compassionate conservatives” when in fact they are predators and cruel hucksters. It also exposes the likes of politicians like Cory Booker who fancies himself a toady for the one percent by embracing private equity as a friend of the people.