Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sues Aspen Dental, which has offices in Springfield and Pittsfield, for deceptive advertising
December 10, 2021 – A dental practice with more than 25 offices across Massachusetts — including in Springfield, West Springfield, Hadley and Pittsfield — is being sued over accusations of deceptive advertising and marketing schemes that put patients into debt.
Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Aspen Dental Management, Inc., accusing the practice of violating the state’s Consumer Protection Law and a nearly a $1 million settlement agreement with the AG’s Office in 2014 over similar misleading marketing tactics.
Aspen Dental, according to the lawsuit, enticed patients by promising “free services” and “no hidden fees.” But the lawsuit states ADMI instead directed its scheduling center representatives to hide fees and not inform patients about certain costs, including those associated with emergency appointments.
“ADMI has preyed upon customers in pain who called ADMI seeking emergency treatment, telling the consumers that their initial appointment would be free, only to then bill them when the consumers received examinations focused on their concerns,” the lawsuit states.
“(Aspen Dental) has also victimized low-income consumers, enticing them to contact ADMI with the promises of working with ‘all insurance,’ when it did not work with MassHealth, the Commonwealth health coverage program that includes Medicaid for low-income individuals,” the lawsuit continues.
Aspen Dental told MassLive it intends to fight Healey’s lawsuit, arguing “the thousands of patients who choose to walk into the Aspen Dental practices each day are the largest rebuke we can think of against the allegations made by the AG.” Aspen Dental has been cooperating with Healey, a spokesperson said, and addressed her concerns “long ago.”
“Sadly, the Massachusetts Attorney General has brought a lawsuit based on overblown rhetoric that’s inconsistent with its own actions,” a spokesperson said Friday. “The Attorney General is relying on old information gathered during the course of an investigation that’s now lasted for more than 5-years. They try to make up in sound and fury what the charges lack in merit.”
Healey, in a statement Thursday, said her office is seeking restitution for patients who were harmed by Aspen Dental’s misconduct. The attorney general also wants to block the dental practice from using “these unlawful practices.”
The lawsuit states Aspen Dental targeted older adults who earned less than $75,000 per year and lived outside major cities. Aspen Dental also focused on people who hadn’t sought dental care for at least two years.
One of Aspen Dental’s hallmark marketing messages — promising a free new patient exam and X-ray — leaves out key details. The exam and X-ray, according to the lawsuit, were only free to patients without dental or one specific insurer.
Despite the 2014 settlement, the lawsuit states, Aspen Dental did not “turn over a new leaf,” instead doubling down on its signature marketing ploy. From December 2014 to January 2019, Aspen Dent’s net patient revenues tallied more than $389 million, Healey’s office said.
By Alison Kuznitz, MassLive
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