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DentaQuest Drops Lawsuit Against State, Armstrong

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DentaQuest of Boston, the bidder who sued the state of Arkansas and its procurement director, Edward Armstrong, after being disqualified for a $366 million state Medicaid dental services contract, has dropped its lawsuit after a statement by Armstrong clearing the company of any misconduct or deception.

In a July 28 letter to DentaQuest President and CEO Steven J. Pollock, Armstrong “strongly encouraged” DentaQuest to bid on any future state contracts it may have interest in.

DentaQuest, through the law firm of McDaniel Richardson & Calhoun PLLC, filed a motion the same day in Pulaski County Circuit Court to dismiss its suit against Armstrong, the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration and the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

DentaQuest was one of four dental insurers who sought a two-company job of providing $366 million worth of dental HMO services to 750,000 Arkansans, including 500,000 children, in the Arkansas Medicaid program. It originally finished first in the procurement judging but was disqualified by Armstrong after a protest by a competitor, MCNA Dental of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Earlier this year, Armstrong affirmed MCNA’s protest against two of the three companies that finished higher in bidding for the work, which was set up to go to two separate vendors.

That ruling ousted DentaQuest and the third-place company, Liberty Dental of Irvine, California, leaving MCNA to split the job with Delta Dental, the second-place vendor.

MCNA’s victory raised some eyebrows and was one of several cases that put a spotlight on state procurement. Last month, the state announced that its Bureau of Legislative Research would solicit proposals to aid a panel of lawmakers in reviewing the procurement process and recommending changes.

The suit, filed in April, contended that Armstrong had erred in disqualifying DentaQuest over its failure to disclose a lawsuit that was filed against it in Massachusetts. It argued that the Massachusetts case was immaterial, and that worse infractions by MCNA had been overlooked. It also held that Armstrong had damaged DentaQuest’s reputation by writing in a protest response that the company’s nondisclosure of the Massachusetts case had “hallmarks of being in intentional representation.”

But Armstrong’s letter of July 28 said that the rejection of DentaQuest’s proposal “was not based on any determination of misconduct or deception by DentaQuest, but merely on the failure of its proposal to satisfy all material requirements of the RFP,” or request for proposals, the state’s bid solicitation.

DentaQuest representative Kristin LaRoche said in a statement dated Monday that the company was “pleased to have reached a resolution with the state” and looked “forward to future opportunities to serve the people of Arkansas.” 

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