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Dave Olson, Published January 14 2011

Dentist aiding Allcare patients: Efforts under way to find medical files

A Fargo dentist is taking the lead in helping area residents navigate the aftermath of the recent closing of Allcare Dental in Fargo.

The North Dakota Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division is directing people to the website of Evergreen Dental in Fargo and its dentist, Casey Fines, at www.evergreensmiles.com.

At the site, under a link called “The All-Care Mess,” Fines offers updates on efforts to secure copies of patient files from Allcare so people can get the dental care they need.

Fines was not available for comment Thursday.

A worker at Evergreen Dental said the website is the best source of information, but if people don’t have access to it, they can call Evergreen at (701) 237-6307.

Parrell Grossman, director of the North Dakota Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, said state officials are grateful for Fines’ efforts.

He said the attorney general’s office continues to research the potential for legal action in the wake of the Allcare clinic closing, which was part of Allcare shutdowns in more than a dozen states. Grossman said officials want to secure refunds for patients who prepaid for goods and services they didn’t receive, but he said it’s possible Allcare lacks the financial ability to make good on its obligations.

He said 61 consumers in North Dakota have filed complaints, with dollar losses totaling $167,000.

Grossman said the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office is coordinating its investigation with Pennsylvania and other states into whether fraud was committed.

He said officials are also looking into “the existence of any assets or other monies available by Allcare and its principals for the purpose of restitution for North Dakota consumers.”

He said in addition to helping state officials help consumers get copies of their dental records, Evergreen Dental is working to make sure people who need immediate dental care find it somewhere.

In a letter posted on his clinic’s website, Fines said there is a limit to what he and other area dentists can do.

“I cannot possibly bear the burden of this mess financially myself,” Fines said.

“But,” he added, “I feel bad about the situation and will discount the cost of finishing work that has partially been completed.

“It will have to be on a case by case basis to see what needs to be done and what this may cost our office and the patient,” Fines added.

Janet Nelson of Horace, N.D., said she paid Allcare $2,700 for dentures she never received.

She paid using a Florida finance company called Chase Health Advance and still owes Chase Health close to $900.

Nelson said she recently informed Chase Health that she was going to stop paying on the bill because it’s doubtful she will ever receive the dentures.

She said Chase Health responded by saying payments are still expected because – the company claims – dispute of her bill wasn’t filed within the prescribed time period.

Chase Health did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Nelson, 48, said she still needs the dentures, though she isn’t sure where she will get them from, or how she’ll pay for them.

Nelson also isn’t sure what will happen if she stops paying for dentures she never got.

“I imagine collections will start calling. As far as I’m concerned, that’s wrong,” Nelson said.

Grossman said there is little the Attorney General’s Office can do in such situations.

“They (finance companies) are going to assert that – as sad as the situation may be – they provided financing to the consumer and it had nothing to do with whether the services were provided.

“Ultimately,” he added, “I’m not sure that any of the attorneys general would really have authority to intervene in what essentially is a contractual matter.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555