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PBS Frontline Dental Episode

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Dental Care PBS

PBS Frontline investigated the nation’s dental care on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 episode titled Dollars and Dentists (watch the episode below). PBS examined the nation’s dental care system by digging into the different methods that try to serve patients and their dental care woes.

Diane Herbert-Farrell, a spokeswoman for “Frontline,” said “The film looks at different states: the state of Florida, some work done in Virginia; we look at several of the models being tried. We look at how are people looking at dental care.”

Sarrell Dental Clinic was one of those different methods being looked at. Jeff Parker, CEO of Sarrell, said “Frontline” camera crew and members spent about 11 hours filming in the Anniston office, interviewing employees, patients and their families. He said, “I’m very pleased they chose us to use as a role model.”

Sarrell Dental has 14 clinics across Alabama and a mobile bus. They are currently the main provider in the state of dental care for children on Medicaid and has had continuous growth since its first clinic opened in 2005. In its first year, Sarrell served 3,500 children. Last year, Sarrell served 105,000 patients and has served 350,000 patients to date, according to the site.

More than 100 million Americans don’t go to the dentist because they simply can’t afford the bill that comes after. Many either go broke trying to pay for the dentist bill or they suffer from extreme pain while going untreated and some even die from the untreated disease.

One in four children have untreated tooth decay, which is now the most common chronic illness among school-aged children. Nearly 5 million American children, or one in 16, did not get a regular dental checkup in 2008 because their families could not afford it, according to a report released last year from the Institute of Medicine.

Kool Smiles Complaints

In 2009, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation data, 19 million children had no dental insurance. Poor children are covered by Medicaid and dentist will turn them away because the profit margins aren’t there. The problem, Medicare offers no dental coverage unless it’s connected to a medical procedure.

The PBS Frontline investigation also found that Kool Smiles, who specializes in treating low-income children, will financially reward their dentists for hitting a high revenue goal and sometimes fire those who don’t.

Kool Smiles denies that they influence dentists to boost revenues and says it offers quality dental care to an underserved population neglected by traditional dental practices.

Aspen Dental was another that PBS Frontline looked at. They are one of the largest for-profit chains that is aimed at adults who haven’t been to the dentists in years. Aspen Dental is a chain of 300 offices in 22 states managed by a company owned by a private-equity firm. It is part of a fast-growing industry of corporate dental practices, many of which specialize in serving people who cannot afford to go to the dentist, a group many dentists ignore, PBS reported.

Aspen Dental chief executive Robert Fontana said, “A typical patient is probably 45 to 65 and struggling just to make ends meet. They’re taking this week’s paycheck to pay last month’s mortgage, making their car payment, trying to put their kids through school and unfortunately, dentistry can become discretionary.”

Aspen Dental Complaints

Aspen Dental denies that its dentists have stronger financial incentives than other dentists or that its bonuses affect treatments. Fontana, founder and chief executive officer of Aspen Dental, says that dentists won’t do unnecessary treatments because it’s just not in their DNA.

Watch the PBS Frontline Dental Episode:

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Environmentalist. Consumer Tech Journalist. Science Explorer. And, a dreamer. I've been contributing informative news content since 2010. Follow me on all socials!

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  1. Brandy

    June 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    My mother goes to a dentist with a substantial office staff – or at least a crowd of young women wearing scrubs behind the main desk. I’m sure her insurance company has legions of office drones. These two groups of medical industry paper-pushers manage to generate one faulty bill after another, even sending re-billings on statements that have already been confirmed as paid in full. They take turns blaming the mistakes on a third company to which the dentist has out-sourced his billing. It’s the most expensive game of Three Card Monty anyone in my family has ever played!

  2. vine

    June 28, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Whatever happened to dentist hygiene? This film shows dentists putting their fingers into patient mouths, then using the same fingers to adjust the lamp, then back into the patient mouths again. Over and over, throughout the entire film, they do this. Unless the lamp handle is sterilized from one patient to the next, the dentist is transferring germs from the mouth of one patient to the mouth of the next. Same thing with the x-ray button, dental tools, and even eye implements that need adjusting. These people touch everything that can be contaminated before putting their filthy fingers in patient mouths. I don’t need to be suffering from OCD to have an aversion to dental-office visits. The last time I was in, the gal dropped the x-ray film on the floor. She would’ve succeeded in picking it up and placing it in my mouth had I not had the peripheral vision to notice and clutch her wrist in time. And that x-ray shield she threw on my lap? It was filthy, way dirtier than the pad my mechanic throws on my car fenders. Imagine how filthy the chair, itself, must be, much less the unprotected head rest! No matter how clean your clothes and hair are going in, you can come away only as clean as the filthiest patient before you. The thought alone makes my skin crawl. And dentist wonder why patients hate to see them or why infections are now epidemic in the health-care industry. What a sorry spectacle of health-care professionalism, infested with people who mistakenly believe that donning rubber gloves makes it okay to touch everything that is not sterilized.

    • Spenser Cammack

      July 1, 2012 at 9:51 am

      The standard set in each and every state requires that all these items be disinfected between every patient that is seen in the operatory. In our office we use a barrier system for the light, chair, x-ray unit, air-water syringe, and suction units (the tips for air/water are replaced and sterilized after each patient, the suction tips are disposed of). The x-ray bibs are wiped down with a heavy disinfectant after each and every use. This may actually be what you see on the bib. They can be discolored by the disinfectant. We keep tract of everything that is touched in the room during the visit, and wipe it down if it has been touched. This includes solid surfaces (wiped down every time anyway), keyboards, monitors, eye wear (providers that is- patient eye wear soaks overnight in a cold sterile bath). We also wear personal barriers that cover from the neck to the knee, as required by WA state. If you have concerns, simply ask your dentist to allow you to watch the room be taken down and prepared prior to you coming in for a visit. This is not a terribly uncommon request. Patient safety and health is the top priority of our office and most out there. You just may not be seeing what is going on behind the scene.

  3. Dr. Doolittle

    June 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    On the flip side…..you shut these medicaid practice down because you’ve investigate and interviewed disgruntled employees and guess what…..no one will see these patients……I sure won’t…they can’t afford me and I can’t afford to take a reduced fee.

    They will all end up in the ER costing the govt billions of dollars. What’s the solution…..no idea but your skewed discussion makes us want to vomit. Have another opinion out there besides your own and let the public make up their own mind.

    • wendi456

      June 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      I do not think anyone is suggesting that these practices shut down. However, once again free enterprise has trumped the better good. These practices are suffering from a lack of government regulation and tax paying citizens are paying for unnecessary procedures. Unfortunately, this time it is at the expense of children.

      Oh and for the record, I have dental insurance and what I consider a descent dentist. Guess what. To suggest that you cannot afford to take a reduced fee is absurd. Dental fees are unbelievably inflated. Even with insurance, my 20% co-pay on any procedure is a huge kick in the ass. The idea that that a dentist will go broke if he or she consents to or is required to allow a small percentage of their patients to pay with Medicaid reimbursement is laughable. Sorry no one who has ever paid a dental bill thinks, “oh my poor poor self-sacrificing dentist. I sure hope he can pay his house note this month”

    • Spenser Cammack

      July 1, 2012 at 10:06 am

      Wendi456

      I understand your frustration with dental fees. Dentistry is a significant investment. What frustrates me a provider is that the law in WA is absurd to cover Medicaid. We have patients of record that are on Medicaid and we gladly see them. I don’t ask for your sympathy, but the reimbursement doesn’t cover expenses, much less pay me anything. We do it because they have been patients, they are kids, and I can’t turn them away (ethically). This state will not allow me to take on a “small percentage” of new patients. Either I take everyone (honestly can’t afford to,cheaper to shut the doors) or I can add no one. I want to see and take on some level of constant new patients that are on medicaid, especially my existing patients that fall on hard times, but the state says they can sue me if I do that. To have any sort of profit margin seeing a large portion of Medicaid, it becomes a numbers game. You have to push them through quickly. That is the only way it is doable. This is not the care I am willing to provide. There has to be a better way.

  4. Dave Howard

    June 27, 2012 at 11:42 am

    You failed to investigate, the pervasive practice, how these Medicaid providers uses outside “marketers” to lure patients to these clinics. Basically, the marketers get money from clinics, then “bus” children to these clinics. In return, the marketers offer gift cards and pizza to these families. A major disadvantage for the honest and small offices.

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Editors' Pick

SpaceX Starhopper test launch delayed to August 21

SpaceX Starhopper test flight face delays but a tentative date is set

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SpaceX is looking to launch Starhopper — an early test prototype of the company’s Mars-colonizing Starship vehicle — on August 21, based on tweets sent by the company’s founder, Elon Musk. 

Starship, once completed, is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle that’s pegged to be a 384-foot giant (117 meters). Upright, it will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. The company aims to use this spacecraft to launch humans to space and to potentially colonize Mars. 

At the moment, SpaceX is looking to test a smaller prototype called Starhopper this weekend from its facility in Boca Chica, Texas, near the border city of Brownsville at an altitude of about 650 feet (200 meters).

However, Musk said in a series of tweets that they will be delaying the launch due to permissions that need to be secured from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Good conversation with [the] head of FAA Space. Need a bit more hazard analysis & should be clear to fly soon,” one of Musk’s tweets read. 

Fortunately, Musk’s “soon” apparently means the middle of next week at the earliest. Officials in Cameron County, where Boca Chica lies, announced that Boca Chica Beach and part of State Highway 4 will be closed on August 21 from 2 p.m. to midnight local time to accommodate SpaceX activities. 

Cameron County officials also said that August 21 is the “primary date” for the closure, but August 21 and 22 will serve as alternative dates.

So far, Starhopper has already accomplished three test flights, all of them from Boca Chica. Reportedly, there were two brief hops in early April and flew freely for the first time on July 25, on a test flight that had a targeted altitude of 65 feet (20 m). 

In terms of the mechanical aspects of Starhopper, it will only have one Raptor engine — enough to make initial results to gauge for the final spacecraft. Meanwhile, Starship will have six Raptor engine, according to Musk and Super Heavy — a giant rocket that will propel Starship from Earth’s atmosphere — will have 35 Raptor engines.

However, these numbers could change as Musk is set to give a Starship design update on August 24. If all goes according to plan, the Starship-Super Heavy duo could begin launching satellites as early as 2021, SpaceX representatives have said. 

The spaceflight system already has a mission booked. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa wants SpaceX to carry him and a few other artists to a trip around the moon by 2023.

Significantly, the rocket is set to be a central piece in Musk’s commercial plans in space, as it will also be used to reach Mars and, hopefully, to come back to Earth for reuse.

Approximately, the Starship rockets are expected to launch up to 24 times a year from SpaceX’s current flagship launchpad 39A, the draft of the company’s environmental assessment said.

The rockets will also be integral in NASA’s Artemis mission, which hopes to bring man back and the first woman to the moon by 2024. The 39A launchpad would also support NASA’s future moon missions from the same Kennedy Space Centre site used for the Apollo lunar missions.

Furthermore, there are two sets of Starship vehicles that are being developed by SpaceX. Currently, both Starship spacecraft is being developed by separate teams of SpaceX engineers. One of which in Boca Chica, Texas and Starship Mk2, in Cocoa, Florida.

In the near future, SpaceX hopes to able to perform launches specifically targeting Mars and its endeavors of colonizing the red planet, Paul Wooster, the principal Mars development engineer at SpaceX, said during a speech at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington in May. 

He explained that SpaceX’s first launch to Mars would be an uncrewed test to determine the environment of the planet such as the presence of natural resources and build the infrastructure necessary to support the company’s Starship flights to and from Mars; that could include landing pads and refueling stations for the reusable rockets. 

Meanwhile, the company also wants to use water ice from the planet’s surface and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere to refuel Starships on Mars, enabling the rockets to return to Earth. 

“SpaceX’s intent, Elon’s intent in founding SpaceX was to enable humanity to become a multiplanet species, allowing us to establish cities on Mars” and to inspire people, Wooster said. “So, while some aspects of [Musk’s vision] are an artist’s concept, the vehicle itself is very much in development now.”

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Editors' Pick

Wave Spell Music Festival Returning to Belden, California

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 The small town of Belden, in Northern California, will host the Wave Spell music and arts festival later this month for the second year in a row.  The annual festival is held and curated by the veteran electro-jam group, Sound Tribe Sector 9, or STS9 to those familiar.   The festival begins on August 15th.

Sound Tribe, originally known as simply “Sector 9”, began their career around Atlanta in 1999 and is now based out of Santa Cruz, California, although they spend a significant amount of time on the road as one of the top touring acts in the game.

The Wave Spell festival is now in its second year, both being held in Belden-a small town on California’s Feather River with a population of only 22 people (as of 2010). With the inaugural year being a success by consensus of fans and insiders alike, there was much anticipation and delight among STS9 constituents with the announcement of another year in Belden.  Fans especially found great excitement at the idea of returning to the banks of the Feather River for Wave Spell.

In hosting the event, Sound Tribe Sector 9 will offer their own unique sound as the headlining entertainment and backbone of the weekend.  Just as they did last year, the band will play 9 sets of original music over three nights in Belden.  Among these performances, three sets will consist of completely improvised music by STS9, dubbed the “Wave Spell Sets”.  This format mimics the first year and is the festival’s namesake. 

Last year, Sound Tribe introduced the concept of their Wave Spell Sets and eventually brought them to the stage, getting an extremely enthusiastic response from their devoted fan base.  The band has presented only a handful of these improvisational performances, both at the festival and on the road, adding to the allure for their followers.

While STS9 is the main attraction in Belden, Wave Spell also boasts a heady lineup of other musical acts, as well as visual artists for festival attendees to enjoy.  Live music is promised until at least 5 A.M. every morning of the event, and early morning performances are known as “sunrise sets” suggest that music will go deep into the day.  As it did last year, the festival will also feature installations from painters as well as live painting during musical performances.  A new addition to the festival this year even offers a display of geological specimens billed as “Crystals by Isometrica”. 

The very small town of Belden, California plays host to several festivals a year.  These events take up the entirety of the town, which consists of only a few homes, a hotel/lodge, a few cabins, and a beach along the river.  The scenic grounds offer camping space for the 1,200 or so festival-goers as well as limited space for RV’s.  For a VIP experience, and at a VIP price, fans can also rent one of the cabins for the weekend or get one of the few rooms in the lodge.  The lodge is also home to a diner-style restaurant and a small convenience store where attendees can purchase supplies. 

The beach in Belden offers not only a beautiful space to relax on the river, but during the Wave Spell festival, it also provides the Beach Stage, where fans can enjoy live music throughout the day.  The beach stage is also the site for the fan-favorite “Sunrise Sets”, starting shortly before dawn and going on through the sunrise and into early morning daylight. 

Last year, in the festivals first year, the Beach Stage quickly became a favorite spot for STS9 fans, who loaded up the area of the Feather River directly in front of the stage with giant inflatable lounge apparatuses shaped like unicorns, ducks, and even a slice of pizza.  The river quickly became a large cluster of floaties, all of which were responsibly retrieved at the end of the weekend by the environmentally conscious crowd. 

The lineup for the second year of Wave Spell is almost entirely fresh.  Aside from STS9, only a few of the groups performing are returning from last year.  Among the veterans of the festival coming back is the Portland, Oregon electronic trio, Yak Attack, who were standouts at the first Wave Spell.  For the most part, however, festival-goers will experience a brand new roster of acts. 

For electronic music fans, Wave Spell submits an exciting schedule of artists and groups.  Amid the lineup of live electronic performers, a legend of the genre promises to be one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend.  DJ Mark Farina will take the stage in Belden to provide the crowd with his now iconic style of sound, dubbed by Farina as “Mushroom Jazz”.  Farina and his Mushroom Jazz have become synonymous and his sound has held the attention of the electronic music world for nearly three decades, dating back to his first Mushroom Jazz compilation in 1992. 

Over on the Beach Stage, early morning sunrise sets have become a popular fixture in the electronic music festival scene.  Often specially assembled to go along with the experience of watching the sun come up in the morning, these sunrise sets have become a favorite among fans. 

A new addition to the Wave Spell lineup this year almost seems to specialize in this type of first thing in the morning/end of the night performances.  Hailing from the San Francisco underground, Random Rab has seemingly perfected the art of the sunrise set.  A Burning Man legend in his own right, Rab seems to fully understand the important mix of laid back and beautiful along with intense and spiritual that makes for a fantastic sunrise set.  His early morning performances have become one of the most sought after in the game. 

Also returning to Wave Spell this year, diehard STS9 fans are particularly excited for solo performances from members of the headlining band.  On the festival schedule for the weekend are special solo sets from David Phipps (Keyboard/Piano) and Zach Velmer (Drums), of Sound Tribe Sector 9.  Along with Phipps and Velmer, STS9 bassist, Alana Rocklin also has something special in store for fans.  Rocklin’s previous band, Sub ID, will be reuniting for a set at Wave Spell.  This will be only the second Sub ID performance since Rocklin joined STS9 in 2014.

Wave Spell Live music festival will be held August 15-18, 2019 in Belden, California.  Tickets can be purchased at:

https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1836953

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Editors' Pick

AMCA Breach: 20 Million Victims, 19 Class Actions

[bctt tweet=”AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million.” username=”Z6Mag”]

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AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million.
AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million. Photo: cbgrfx123 | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
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More than 20 million and not 200,000 have fallen victim to a massive data breach that has seen medical clients using the services of healthcare billing company, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), to pay for their laboratory tests in different blood testing labs across the U.S. were confirmed by the SEC filings of affected medical institutions amidst the earlier claims of AMCA that there were fewer victims.

The data breach was a result of a cyber attack that aims to phish for financial information from the website of the AMCA. The exposed data belongs to Americans who paid laboratory services at several clinical and blood testing labs and institutions and used the AMCA billing portal.

What happened in the AMCA breach?

Data that were stolen from the victims include their names, phone numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other bank details. The said information was auctioned off by the hacker in several financial hacking forums.

According to DataBreaches.net, the organization who first reported about the incident, AMCA officials, following the notification of the breach confirmed that their system has been compromised and has remained undetected for more than eight months. AMCA corroborated that the breach took place between August 1, 2018, and March 30, 2019.

Notifications have been sent by several of AMCA’s corporate partners and clients to their customers following the disclosure of the security breach that has seen information from millions of Americans compromised.

Related: Hospitals Only Spend 5% Of Its Budget For Cybersecurity Amidst 82% Of Them Reporting To Have Been Attacked

The list of impacted testing laboratories includes Quest Diagnostics (11.9 million patients), LabCorp (7.7 million patients), BioReference Laboratories (Opko Health subsidiary, 422,600 patients), Carecentrix (500,000 patients), and Sunrise Laboratories (undisclosed number of patients).

However, neither the AMCA nor its five clients have yet to notify ALL impacted citizens by the breach making them vulnerable to a lot of cyber crimes and their financial data could be used by anyone who gets hold of the information against the persons of those who still don’t know that their financial information is floating around the internet.

The companies involved in the breach are facing several lawsuits

Appropriately, the lawsuit came into the direction of AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp regarding the incident. More than 11 class-suite actions have been filed against the three companies for their inability to protect consumer data. The 11 lawsuits were recorded at The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on June 3. Since then, eight more lawsuits were filed against the companies in federal courts from New Jersey, New York, and California.

According to litigation experts, “If many cases are filed in federal court, any of the lawyers on any of those cases can file a motion with the JPML [..] to centralize the various federal cases that have been filed by sending all of them to a single judge for coordinated pre-trial proceedings.”

“Healthcare companies are especially susceptible to data breaches not only because they aggregate a tremendous amount of important and sensitive data, but also because they tend to be less focused on cybersecurity protection than other industries,” said John Yanchunis of Morgan and Morgan, one of the firms who filed lawsuits against Quest Diagnostics.

“These companies, like Quest Diagnostics, know they are at an increased risk and yet have not taken the proper steps to protect their patients’ data. We will fight for justice on behalf of those impacted by this breach,” added Yanchunis.

Lawmakers are demanding an explanation

The U.S. government, led by attorneys general from Connecticut and Illinois has also opened an investigation on the matter. Furthermore, lawmakers and other politicians have sent letters to the responding companies to ask for an explanation of why an eight-month data breach remained undetected and to demand accountability from them.

In Washington, US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also sent a letter to Quest Laboratories demanding the company explain its vetting process for selecting AMCA as a billing vendor, and what requirements a third-party vendor has to pass. Democratic New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez also sent letters to AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp, seeking official answers on how a breach of this severity went undetected for eight months.

“The months-long leak leaves sensitive personal and financial information vulnerable in the hands of criminal enterprises. Moreover, such breaches force victims to contend with identity theft that may lead to irreparable harm to their credit reports and financial future,” said the letter sent by the NJ senators.

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