Consumer Health Digest #08-29
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 15, 2008
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
Allstate sues chiropractic insurance ring. Chiropractic Strategies Group and its owner Michael Kent Plambeck, D.C. lead a list of 66 defendants in a lawsuit for fraud and racketeering filed in Dallas. The suit alleges that deception and coercion were used to sell unnecessary services to people involved in automobile accidents. The suit seeks reimbursement for payments Allstate made for allegedly fraudulent claims. [Alleged multi-million dollar fraud ring target of federal lawsuit. Allstate news release, March 6, 2008] The 67-page complaint states that since at least 2002:
- The organization solicited people who had been involved in motor vehicle accidents. Its telemarketers promised a free examination and sometimes said they were insurance company representatives.
- At the clinics, potential patients were told they had sustained substantial injuries and required immediate treatment even if they had no signs or symptoms of injury.
- "Converted" patients were referred to a law office associated with the organization.
- In Alabama, where telephone solicitation by chiropractors is illegal, call recipients were referred to a medical clinic, where they did not see the physician but merely filled out paperwork and were referred to a chiropractic clinic.
- Patients received similar services and insurance companies were also billed for services that were not provided.
Plambeck runs more than 35 chiropractic clinics sprinkled throughout Texas, Louisiana, Ohio and Alabama. Each of the clinics is set up as a separate corporation. He also set up a Louisiana marketing operation called Media Placement that churned out most of his phone pitches. The other defendants include Michael Capobianco, D.C.; Paul Grindstaff, D.C.; Robert Ekin D.C.; Glen Wilcoxson, M.D.; attorneys Eugene Mercier, Rodney Sipes, Margaret Ingle, Thomas Magelaner, Andrew LoCicero, and Scot Labourdette; Professional Management Group; and Law Office Network, LLC.
Arkansas warns against low-price insurance plans. Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Julie Benafield Bowman has warned consumers about two unlicensed companies that offer health insurance plans via unsolicited faxes. One such company, National Trade Business Alliance of America, may have also operated as Affinity Health Plans of America, National Trade Business Association, National Transportation Benefit Alliance, Qualified Administrative Specialists of America, Family Health Care Services, Inc., America’s Best Benefits, and American Employers Association. The only contact information they provide is a toll-free telephone number. No physical address is ever given. The faxed ads offer very low rates. Another unlicensed entity using the same tactics is United Business Insurance Association. Bowman warned that an unrealistically low price is a sign that claims may not be properly paid. [Consumer alert: Phony health plans target Arkansas consumers. News release, May 15, 2008] Several states have ordered National Trade Business Alliance of America to stop marketing to their residents. Insurance officials in these states have noted that many “policyholders” wound up with unpaid claims.
New group attacks paraformaldehyde use in root canal treatment. The newly-formed Sargenti Opposition Society is warning the public to avoid dentists who use a paraformaldehyde-containing paste for root-canal treatment. Root canal therapy can often save a tooth when its soft inner tissues become damaged. During the treatment, these tissues are removed and the space is filled with a substitute material. Standard root canal therapy uses gutta percha, which is inert, but some dentists use a paraformaldehyde-containing paste that can severely damage the surrounding tissues if extruded beyond the tip of a root. The paste, commonly referred to as "N2," was devised about 30 years ago by a Swiss dentist named Angelo Sargenti. It probably works well in most cases, but when things go wrong, the results can be disastrous. N2 is not marketed as such in the United States because it is not FDA-approved. However, practitioners can obtain it from compounding pharmacies. The new group, which was formed by injured patients, plans to press state dental boards and other regulatory bodies to ban further use. Its Web site advises people who need root-canal treatment to ask whether the dentist uses a paraformaldehyde paste.
This page was revised on July 28, 2008.