Is ARRA Stimulus Money for Dentists?

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Now is the Time to Say “No Thank You” to the ADA

[By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS]

A few days ago on Twitter, @techguy said: “@Dentrix, Are you guys helping dentists get access to the ARRA EHR Stimulus money?” This morning I “retweeted” his question to the electronic dental record giant: “That’s a great question, @Dentrix. What are you doing to help dentists receive stimulus money?

Of Faded Promises  

Dentrix officials no longer shop faded promises of free stimulus money to help dentists purchase their software. The truth is, without taxpayer help, Dentrix’s product offers dentists no return on investment, and it’s unlikely that the profession will ever see a cent of stimulus money. In fact, if American Dental Association President Raymond Gist wants to be a national hero, now would be the time to purchase a press release to tell the nation, “American dentists graciously decline your offer of stimulus money, taxpayers. We say, let our grandchildren keep it for themselves.” The deficit-weary public is very interested in that kind of good news these days. But, the ADA’s PR opportunity has a shelf life. The sooner they jump on this minor deception the more generous American dentists will appear. A year from now, the chunk of faux-generosity won’t work.

Too Late for Cash Give-Aways 

For one thing, it’s simply too late for dentists to take part in the cash giveaway. And even if there was time for a significant number of dentists to convert from paper to digital before September 2011, to receive promised stimulus money, a dentist’s practice has to be 30% Medicaid. That qualification rules out almost all dental practices right off, and here in Texas last week, Governor Perry threatened to opt my state out of Medicaid (and stimulus money) completely. A year ago, Perry threatened secession from the Union. It sounds to me like you are softening him up, Washington.

Meaningful Use Requirements 

That’s not all. Before a dentist can qualify to be reimbursed up to $44,000 dollars, the practice must show “meaningful use” of certified electronic dental records. However, meaningful use of digital records in dentistry has not yet been determined and perhaps does not actually exist. Nevertheless, the best minds in the ADA and HHS are searching for the next best thing – humorous rationalizations. For example, imagine the convenience of the speed-dial on the telephone compared to logging on to a highly secure, password-protected, HIPAA-compliant, encrypted computer just to tell the lab you have a pick up – just to show the Department of Health and Human Services that you are making “meaningful use” of your Dentrix product and spending taxpayer money wisely.

Assessment 

Do you know what is scary about the leadership in my profession? I’m apparently the only dentist in the nation who dares admit that as far as ARRA stimulus money goes, American dentists are out of luck and clueless. Even @techguy is in the dark for crying out loud!

Conclusion

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