Did ‘Frontline’ Attack on Dentistry Rely on Convicted Felon?

June 27th, 2012 5:02 PM


For-profit dental care is awful, according to a new report by PBS’s “Frontline.” The piece pushed socialized medicine and attacked dentistry companies, especially the firm Kool Smiles. But the story relied on whistleblower comments from a former Kool Smiles employee who is not only suing the firm, she may well have a felony criminal record.

The employee, Christina Bowne, was a former office manager for the company and is suing the firm for wrongful termination. However, according to a Virginia Criminal Record report, a Christina Summers Bowne, from the same area of Virginia, was convicted of “obtaining money by false pretenses.” That woman was given a five-year sentence, which was suspended. No one responded to attempts to either contact Bowne or PBS “Frontline” producer Jill Rosenbaum.

The hour-long documentary relied heavily on anti-industry interview subjects, such as Bowne, politicians and competitors to depict for-profit dentistry as bad. Reporter Miles O’Brien, formerly of CNN, was the on-screen personality. However, in a “Frontline” chat on June 27, O’Brien made it clear he liked the non-profit model over Kool Smiles.

“I think the Sarell Dental model in Alabama  http://www.sarrelldental.org/ is worthy of imitation. It is a non profit that focuses on poor kids. Dentists are paid a straight salary ... no matter how many kids they see or filling or crowns they do. When you remove the pressure to increase production, the nature of the care changes. In this case, Alabama leads the nation!”

The documentary also mentioned an audit by the state of Massachusetts into Kool Smiles. The context implied that this had to do with medical malpractice complaints. In actuality, the audit looked into discrepancies caused mainly by standard clerical and computer errors. Kool Smiles responded with a presentation that is currently posted on "Frontline’s" website. As Kool Smiles pointed out in its response, in any medical practice, there are bound to be a few unhappy patients.

One of the examples that PBS used was of an 87 year old woman who was “tricked” into taking out a credit card to pay for her dental work, and she had “charges [and interest] accrue before she left the office.”

But those complaints showed the ignorance of the show’s writers about how credit works. The point of a healthcare credit card is simple. It provides a way for people to pay back their dental bills in increments, rather than in one shot. Of course the bill accrued interest. The woman in question had already spent the money to pay it.

Then “Frontline” focused on a grandmother with who brought her two grandchildren to the dentist and was shocked that, not only would the dentist not accept Medicaid, but there were no  “discounts or rebates” for her, after she had been going to the dentist for 30 years. She described such treatment as “unreal,” and since that was the only reference at all to her story, it was obvious “Frontline” agreed with her. Many people probably are not aware that it is a common practice for dentists to give discounts to the family members of long time customers. Mainly because it isn’t.

The “Frontline” special was made in conjunction with the Center for Public Integrity, using the results of a Pew Research Center poll. Like-minded organizations tend to scratch each other’s backs. In this case the Pew Research Center and CPI are both funded by Soros. Pew got $500,000 in Soros money in 2009 alone. The Center for Public Integrity got $2,416,000 in Soros funds from 2000-2003.