The Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) has been following a controversy in Alabama involving a battle between the non-profit Sarrell Dental Center and the state's for-profit, private "dental cartel" and its trade organization - the Alabama Dental Association (ALDA), see news reports here (4/13/2010), here (4/28/11) and here (7/9/2011). Here's some background:
From the clinic's website: "Sarrell Dental is a non-profit that treats the dental and optical needs of Alabama children ages 1-20 with Medicaid or ALLKids insurance. Sarrell Dental was founded in 2004 in Anniston, and since then Sarrell has grown to include 11 other offices and it operates a mobile dental bus which travels to schools and daycare centers throughout the state. Since 2006, Sarrell has grown to include optical services in 5 of its locations."
From NPQ: "The clinic gave away $400,000 in dental care to patients in 2010, never turns away a patient even if they are late or don’t have appointments, and, according to the CEO, “If they make it here, somehow, somewhere, even if we have to stay late, we’ll see them.”
The $10 million Sarrell clinic, now the largest dental provider in the state, is turning away job applicants and, according to the CEO, has “never had a complaint from a consumer,” unlike other Medicaid specialty practices. There’s no evidence – and no charges – that Sarrell is offering subpar services."
MP: So what's the problem? There really is none, unless you're a for-profit, private dentist and you don't welcome the competition from a non-profit organization. In that case, you exercise your political muscle and try to put your nonprofit competitor out of business, which the ALDA attempted to do, even though Sarrell was providing excellent, and sometime free, dental service to Alabama's under-served, poor children. Sarrell countered with an anti-trust lawsuit against Alabama's dental cartel for trying to engage in monopolistic, anti-competitive behavior.
It now looks a compromise has been reached
, signed by the governor, that will allow Sarrell to continue to operate under the supervision of the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners. In return, Sarrell will drop its antitrust lawsuit, although the FTC may still pursue action against the "dental cartel" for its attempts to put its non-profit competition out of business.