A Rant About Dental Insurance

March 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Buck @ 7:33 pm

So I’ve discussed dental insurance in our blog before, but one question that we get quite often is “Why are not on my insurance plan?” So I felt the urge to discuss this and rant a little, so bear with me. First off, dental insurance is a misnomer, it should be called dental benefits. Insurance, by definition, is designed to help in a catastophe. If you crash your car, you get it totaled or repaired (after paying your deductible). Your house burns down, the insurance company gives you money to rebuild your house. Dental insurance sure doesn’t pay for a full mouth rehabilitation if you’ve ground your teeth down flat and you’re now developing subsequent joint problems. That could cost $20-30K. What does “dental insurance” cover, around $1K depending on your yearly maximum. So dental benefits subsidize some of the cost, they don’t pay for dentistry. That’s the first point I want to make.
The second point is about “preferred provider plans”, aka PPOs. These are plans that your employer has agreed to be a part of. Many time this allows your employer to pay less for dental coverage. As a client of a PPO, you are encouraged by your employer and insurance company to go to a practice that participates in your plan (some insurance companies actually are quite forceful in their encouragement and make it sound like you cannot go to a non-participating practice).
So you have dental practices and clinics out there that accept pretty much every PPO that is available. From an outsiders view, why wouldn’t you participate in every PPO? But what a lot of the public does not realize is that in order to be a participating provider, you have to agree to set fees on what the insurance company decides. Well we all know that insurance companies make money by not paying out any more than they absolutely have to (see my post about end of the year benefits, “use ’em or loose ’em”). In order for a practice to participate with the PPO, the practice has to discount their fees 40%-60% in most cases. So why should a patient care about that? Especially if it means that you have to pay less for that crown.
A dental practice is a small business and it has bills to pay just like any other business. So if a practice has to discount their fees 40%-60% and still have those bills to pay, they have to make some choices. They can use lower quality/less expensive materials, not improve their dental equipment and facility, reduce staff, or see more patients. Most practices that accept those PPOs choose to see more patients. This means that you spend less time with the doctor, the doctor seems rushed, the staff is not as friendly (because they are rushed and tired), you are spending more time in the waiting room, and your dentistry doesn’t look as good as you want it to. It boils down to the fact that the customer service is not as good as it could be. And this is not true of every practice that accepts PPOs. We accept a couple PPOs that allow us to acquire some new patients yet still keep our quality at a high level. As a patient, you can save a little money by going to a provider that participates with your insurance that your employer purchased or pay more to get the quality that you are hoping for. It just depends on your lifestyle and your priorities. Obviously, I’m biased and do not like the insurance companies, but it always aggavates me when I see and hear stories about sub-par dentistry and the customer service provided. So thank you for letting me rant. Dental benefits can be confusing so if you have any questions, just let us know.