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Published January 07, 2011, 12:08 AM

Dental patients out $80K: Fargo’s Allcare Dental and Dentures shutters abruptly

Patients who prepaid for dental procedures at Fargo’s Allcare Dental are out at least $80,000 after the office unexpectedly closed last week.

By: Heidi Shaffer, INFORUM

Patients who prepaid for dental procedures at Fargo’s Allcare Dental are out at least $80,000 after the office unexpectedly closed last week.

The North Dakota Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has received about 20 complaints from Fargo Allcare customers, and Director Parrell Grossman said he expects that number to continue to climb.

Grossman’s office, along with attorneys general in about 12 other states, are working with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office on an investigation into the Pennsylvania-based company.

Allcare customers are urged to file complaints as soon as possible with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Health Care Section.

The North Dakota Board of Dental Examiners is working with the attorney general’s office to obtain medical files from Allcare and make them available to consumers, Grossman said.

But getting a refund for prepaid work is unlikely, Grossman said.

“We anticipate it’s going to be very difficult for patients to obtain refunds,” he said. “Typically, businesses don’t close doors unless they are in serious financial trouble.”

Grossman said Allcare’s practice of pre-charging for dental work is not a very common or, in his opinion, good practice.

“When you pay for a particular service or product, you anticipate that company will have the money regardless of their financial status,” Grossman said. “That is really unacceptable.”

Grossman recommends patients pay only a portion of charges in advance and make the final payment upon completion of the service if possible.

Investigators have information that the company intends to file for bankruptcy, Grossman said.

Fargo staff was unaware of financial problems, Grossman said. Staff could not be reached Thursday because two phone numbers listed for Fargo’s Allcare, which employed four dentists at 4302 13th Ave. S., are no longer in service.

After being contacted by the New Hampshire attorney general, Allcare opened its two locations there for one day on Thursday so patients could retrieve records, The Associated Press reports.

In West Virginia, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Stonestreet said the state had received about 40 complaints about Allcare before the shutdown and was bracing for more calls.

In New Hampshire, many customers complained of receiving shoddy treatment well before the company closed, The Associated Press reports.

In Ohio, a network of 14 dental offices has agreed to take on patients from Allcare’s Boardman, Ohio, practice.

Kenneth Cooper, chief executive officer of Dental Express Practice Management Services LLC and Refresh Management Services LLC, said the network will give free treatments to patients who had prepaid Allcare but had not finished treatment.

Allcare was the subject of a $135,000 consumer protection settlement in April 2009, which addressed complaints that the business did not honor advertised discounts and used confusing information in promotions, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s website.

Allcare patients urged to file complaints

Patients at Fargo’s Allcare Dental are encouraged to file complaints with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, which is leading an investigation of the business.

Patients can call the attorney general’s health care hotline at (877) 888-4877 or access an online complaint form at www.attorney

general.gov, click on “complaints” and select “health care complaint form.”

In addition to filing an attorney general complaint, patients should take the following steps, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office:

- Check with credit card companies to dispute charges and have them removed if possible.

- Contact banks to see if check payments can be stopped.

- Stop automatic payments set up through banks or credit unions.

- Keep records of all transactions in order to assist investigators and support any possible legal claims.

- Gather receipts, invoices or bills that show what was ordered and paid for and when delivery was promised.

- Keep any phone records or notes that indicate which company employees you spoke with and when the conversations occurred.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511