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DrBicuspid.com is Biased against Dentists

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More on Delta Dental

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS

Kathy Kincade, Editor-in-Chief of DrBicuspid posted the article, “Studies urge adding adult dental benefits to Medicare” on January 29, 2010.

http://www.drbicuspid.com/index.aspx?sec=sup&sub=pmt&pag=dis&ItemID=303755

Ms. Kincade has always been generous to Delta Dental, making me suspect that she is less than unbiased.

Of Delta Dental

For example, at the end of the article, she devotes the last words about dental coverage for the elderly to an advertisement for Delta:

“Through a relationship with Delta Dental, the AARP offers the AARP Dental Insurance Plan, a dental PPO for AARP members that includes more than 100,000 dentist locations across the U.S. Delta also offers individual plans that are ‘particularly popular among retirees,’ according to Chris Pyle, director of public relations and community benefits at Delta Dental.”

Kincade closes her ad with a quote from Chris Pyle:

“Delta Dental has been a pioneer in developing affordable dental insurance options for those who do not have coverage through an employer. Retirees who take the time to do the math are finding individual and family dental insurance plans to be a wise option.”

How much does advertisement space on DrBicuspid go for these days?

Dr. Hamm                     

That is when Dr. Hamm got involved. He first requested that Chris Pyle document his claim:

”Prove it, Mr. Pyle. Let’s see your figures. Be sure to include comparison of the quality of care between PPO dentistry and fee-for-service dentistry. Do you think discounting fees – even for non-covered expenses – improves the quality of intricate care?”

When Dr. Hamm failed to get an immediate response, he went to the source. Here is what he had to say to the Editor in Chief of DrBicuspid:

——————————————————–

Kathy Kincade, pardon me for being straightforward, but at the risk of making it difficult for DrBicuspid reporters to obtain future interviews with Delta Dental PR professionals and ADA presidents, I proclaim that it is DrBicuspid readers’ rights – indeed Americans’ obligation – to challenge unsupported, self-serving statements that strategically discount facts in healthcare to protect stakeholders from principals (that would be dentists and patients).

DDPA Employee 

Chris Pyle, the on again – off again DDPA employee, isn’t the first Delta PR specialist who has told DrBicuspid outrageous statements before failing to answer the bell when challenged. A year ago, in an article by DrBicuspid Associate Editor Rabia Mughal, another shy and unaccountable Delta Dental PR professional poked his head up before diving for cover. Delta employee Ari Adler is reported to have said that “direct reimbursement to out-of-network dentists is a problem because it allows them to enjoy the benefits provided by the network without following cost guidelines and quality control measures of the network.”

http://www.drbicuspid.com/index.aspx?sec=sup&sub=pmt&pag=dis&ItemID=301436

“We put our dentists thorough a credentialing process and provide quality assurance. That means if a dentist does a filling that should last a certain amount of time and it doesn’t, they have to fix it without charging the network or the patients.” 

– Ari Adler, communications administrator at Delta Dental of Indiana

Even after repeated requests for an explanation of Delta’s unprecedented guarantee of dental work done by Delta’s preferred providers, Ari Adler, a very popular master of Twitter who also teaches PR as a part-time job, declined to answer (So much for popularity on Twitter). I assume the PR and social network expert thinks that since he’s the Communications Administrator for such a powerful company, he’s protected from accountability. Besides, American dentists love and respect Delta Dental, don’t they?

Dr. Ron Tankersley

And; what about Dr. Ron Tankersley who is President of the American Dental Association. Is he also simply too good to talk with us?

————————————————

I may or not know Dr. John Hamm. I know Editor in Chief Kathy Kincade, though. She kicked me off of DrBicuspid over a year ago – the day before DrBicuspid consummated a contractual relationship with the ADABEI to receive the ADA seal of approval.

An Invitation

I should warn readers that I could be wrong about what may have been just an odd coincidence, so I invite you, Kathy Kincade, to discuss journalism ethics with me on Pruitt’s Platform. I trust someone will warn you, Kathy, of this invitation before it comes up on your first page in a Google search. My article “DrBicuspid, the ADA and split allegiances” from 2/15/09 is the 8th hit already. Now do you remember me?

http://community.pennwelldentalgroup.com/forum/topics/drbicuspid-the-ada-and-split

Assessment 

Come on out, Kathy. I’ve been waiting for this a long time. Come on out where everyone can see you defend Delta Dental. Please invite Brian Casey as well. He was the Editorial Director of IMV Publishing a year ago. Is he still around – policing the Internet?

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ADA Opens a Facebook

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Perhaps too Early?

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS]pruitt

Something strange has happened to www.DentalBlogs.com I think they have partially shut down their Facebook account. They no longer feature original articles such as those by Dr. Rhonda Savage and Ms. Linda Miles, and in the last couple of weeks, they eliminated their collection of photos. Now the site only features ads and press releases. Does anyone else wonder what happened? Sure you do! This is exciting.

Perhaps Re-Tooling 

Unless they are just re-tooling this weekend, I suspect that since their previous format was biased heavily in favor of advertising dollars in a tough economy, their funding simply dried up. Like so many other advertising-related careers, the dinosaur found it couldn’t compete in a 2.0 market.  Nevertheless, today I did learn something important from the DentalBlogs Wall: The ADA has opened a Facebook account.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/American-Dental-Association/32252997166?ref=mf

Such transparency is inspirational

When I announced this news on Twitter a few hours ago (“Proots”), neither the ADA nor the TDA had yet told membership. Yea, I scooped them on their in-house news. It happens all the time.  Naturally, I became a fan of the ADA Facebook. When I joined, there were already 1205 fans, even though the site is yet operational. I found that intriguing because it usually takes a long time for most FBs to attain 1200 fans – especially when all one can gather is the mission statement of the ADA’s newest Internet site.

My View 

Here’s what I see: About the time DentalBlogs laid off employees from their fully active Facebook, the ADA opened theirs (Gasp)! The ADA was well known to DentalBlogs because the ADA once advertised with them regularly. That is where I found an article about the ADA-approved CareCredit/GE that ended up causing problems for some people and entertainment for others. Let’s face it, friends. I just know that I’m not the only dentist in the nation with at least two burning questions. I bet at least 4 others are wondering who were the first seven fans to sign up for the ADA Facebook and Has Kim Volk, CEO of DDPA signed up yet?

Because the number of fans is rapidly piling up, such information from a few weeks (?) ago could soon be just too difficult to uncover from the fans list on the ADA site. It took a long time for me to scroll down through 1200 names – looking for those I recognize (Gasp)!

Scrolling Quickly, but Carelessly

I could have easily missed several easily recognizable names in contemporary dentistry, but as far as I can tell, not only was Delta Dental Plans Association CEO Kim E. Volk’s name not present in the list of 1200 fans, but there were very few names I recognized … and I’m sorry if I insulted anyone. I also did not see “Ron Tankersley” and other ADA officials’ names on the fans list. Didn’t the ADA try partial transparency like this once before? I may be wrong, but I think I played a role in shutting it down a few years ago with my persistent and still unanswered questions about the NPI number.

More Semi-Reliable Information

Here’s another bolus of semi-reliable information: I also quickly scrolled through DentalBlog’s list of 400 fans and did not notice an unusual amount of matches with the ADA Facebook fans list.

Those who dare to do so, might just ask, “So if the ADA fans didn’t come from dentalblogs, where did they come from?” I think one possibility is that the ADA effort has been in Beta and limited to a select group of people up until now. Doesn’t it seem strange that nobody is able to post anything? Did someone open the doors a few hours early? So who were the first 7 fans? No, you don’t have to scroll down to find out for yourself. I’ll tell you.

Who is John Hergert?

The first person to become a fan of the ADA Facebook account is named John Hergert from Chicago, Illinois.

2nd – Laurie Rich

3rd – Amy Lund

4th – Kelsey Majors

5th – Jessica Stevens

6th – Samantha Campbell

7th – Lina Kulkormi

I don’t recognize any of the seven, and I have not searched anyone’s name other than John Hergert’s – the first person to become a fan of the ADA Facebook. I found someone named John Hergert in Chicago, Illinois who is Associate Vice President at Lipman Hearne Inc. – an advertising agency.

http://www.spoke.com/info/p6JVgPy/JohnHERGERT.

Here is the bio of the person I only suspect is the first to become a fan of the ADA Facebook.

John Hergert’s Biography

John Hergert Associate Vice President John Hergert has a keen understanding of what it takes to capture and hold the attention of marketing audiences via innovative marketing techniques. Formerly Associate Director of Marketing Communications at DePaul University in Chicago, John works with both traditional and interactive media to design and implement marketing strategies that build a client’s image, increase support, and grow enrollment or attendance. John’s experience includes developing ROI-based marketing strategies for a variety of nonprofit and for-profit clients. Prior to DePaul, John was an account executive overseeing marketing and advertising strategy, web development, direct mail, print production, and promotional development for clients including Disney, Marconi, Owens Corning, and Reynolds. John began his marketing career while at the University of Wisconsin, where he was hired by a Los Angeles firm to implement cutting-edge marketing programs for Saturn and Trek Bicycle Corporation. John received his B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin and his Master of Science in Information Systems from DePaul University.”

Assessment 

What do you want to bet that the ADA Facebook is Mr. Hergert’s baby?

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Janis Oshensky Lobbies Congress – Not Dentists

Show Me the Math

By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDSpruitt 

I have noted here far too many times how it disappoints me that Delta Dental Plans Association vice president Janis Oshensky repeatedly chooses to turn to politicians rather than discuss Delta Dental’s arguably egregious and harmful policies with me, a dentist. I intend to put a stop to such disrespect one PR expert at a time if necessary.

Long ago I warned Oshensky that if she didn’t talk to me, she should probably just shut up in order to preserve what’s left of her Internet reputation. Since by posting her Letter to the Editor on POLITICO.com today, she obviously ignored my advice, this highly critical comment will reliably join three others of mine on her first page soon enough. Her employer is sacrificing her like a pawn.

The following comment is the one I posted on POLITICO.com in response to Oshensky’s letter. It might just help the vice president to finally come to a decision on this issue one way or the other. Either way, marketplace conversation like this cannot help but lead to safer air for the community … My pleasure.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/24873.html

Dear POLITICO.com Editor:

This comment and subsequent invitation to Janis Oshensky is in response to the Delta Dental Plans Association vice president’s July 14, 2009 letter to you. Her letter is the most recent message she successfully sent Congress using a political news Website. Even though Ms. Oshensky holds the position of VP of dental relations as well as public policy, she has avoided answering this dentist’s questions about Delta Dental’s policies for months. If Ms. Oshensky is willing to do so, I would love for her to join me in discussion of Delta Dental’s taxation subsidy right here on POLITICO.com so that our lawmakers can witness a more balanced view of the issues.

Hello – It’s Me

Hello. My name is D. Kellus; Pruitt DDS, and I’m a practicing dentist in Fort Worth, Texas. It is my professional opinion that my patients are harmed by the policies of managed care dental plans like that sold by DDPA because there is no accountability to their clients or dentists. There is barely any accountability to those who select and pay for Delta’s products – dental patients’ naive bosses.

Like virtually every US citizen, your readers probably couldn’t care less about the dental industry. It is precisely because dentistry has been uninteresting for decades that make the microcosm of health care incredibly interesting to me. Let me uncover for your appreciation the event horizon in dental history. You could learn about more than just dentistry.

If left to natural forces of human nature, what happens to value when there is no accountability? For example, what do the 1975 East German Trabant and the 1979 Ford Pinto have in common? By popular vote, those products not only represent the two worst automobiles ever made, but the state shielded both manufacturers from accountability to consumers. Poor quality happens.

Oshensky argues against the taxation of managed care dental benefits like those sold to employers by Delta Dental. Let me offer that if Delta’s product were taxed like income, its value would quickly dive below the market threshold that attracts purchasers’ consideration.

Allow Me to Show-You the Math

Recently, Delta Dental of Michigan lost the accounts of thousands of GM retirees when their group dental benefits were cut in bankruptcy negotiations with UAW. Suddenly, Delta found itself forced to market their product to individuals who for once have the choice to keep their money. Faced with true competition for healthcare dollars, Delta leaders desperately cobbled together individual policies for the retirees who want to continue with their coverage. Even though Delta did everything possible to lower the cost of their coverage, the cheapest of the plans they offered still runs about $30 per person per month, and covers only 50% of everything, including preventive. So for premiums of $360 per year plus half the preferred providers’ 20% to 30% discounted fees, is this a bargain for Michigan retirees?

Free Markets 

In my free-market, fee-for-service practice, if a patient comes in for two cleanings and routine x-rays during a year, 100% of my bill is $208. This is the market price in my neighborhood that is continually challenged by lively competition with other dentists for new patients who may not even have dental benefits. Those customers pay in full at the time of visit, just like most people whose bosses purchased Delta Dental Plans.

Value Comparisons

So let’s compare value of Delta Dental’s product with cash. If I were a Delta Dental preferred provider, my fee of $208, less Delta’s 25% discount would be $156. Never mind that my wife has problems with my 70% cut in pay, let’s move on. 

The patient’s half of the $156 I earned is $78. $360 + $78 = $438. So for one uneventful year of discounted dental services with a dentist chosen from a list of names, a patient can expect to spend more than twice as much than if they paid the free-market price at the point of service.

Assessment

Not only is that hardly a bargain, but it is my opinion that managed care dentistry is dentistry by the lowest bidder with no quality control. That should be enough meat to get this conversation rolling. Now it’s your turn Ms. Oshensky. I think you have to admit that you’ve got holes to mend in the dental relations part of your job.

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