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Multistate settlement reached over unneeded dental procedures

By Chris Rizo | Jan 20, 2010

Richard Cordray (D)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline)-The company that provided management services to Small Smiles dental clinics nationwide has agreed to pay $24 million to settle a multistate lawsuit that alleged the company submitted bills for unneeded dental care for children, officials said Wednesday.

Officials said that the Forba Holdings LLC's 68 clinics in 21 states and the District of Columbia filed reimbursement claims for pulpotomies -- so-called baby root canals -- extractions and other services that were unnecessary or failed to meet professional standards.

"These dental clinics were performing unnecessary and, in some cases, painful procedures on children for the sole purpose of padding their bottom line," Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said in a statement.

The company was sued by 23 state attorneys general and the U.S. government. In agreeing to the settlement, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company did not admit to any wrongdoing.

In addition to agreeing to pay $24 million plus interest, the company has agreed to enter into a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A federal investigation against the company, dubbed "Operation Bite Back," began with the filing of lawsuits in Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina under the federal False Claims Act.

The three whistleblowers who filed the lawsuits will receive payments totaling more than $2.4 million from the federal government's share of the settlement, officials said.

"We have zero tolerance for those who break the law to exploit needy children," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West told reporters. "Illegal conduct like this endangers a child's well-being, distorts the judgments of health-care professionals and puts corporate profits ahead of patient safety."

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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