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Dental Managed Care is Substandard Care

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Dental Managed Care [DMC] is Substandard Care – count on it!

1-darrellpruittBy D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

Have you noticed most employer-sponsored dental plans boast savings of 30% and more on dental care, without mentioning how unsustainable discounts harms their employees?

Dental Managed Care [DMC] is substandard care: Discount dentistry, like virtually all underfunded handwork, has always been substandard … Or perhaps someone would like to argue that intricate surgery in sensitive mouths of nervous patients is improved when rushed.

Discounts are popular

Those who market obscure, hard to understand managed care plans to clueless, perhaps non-caring employers, do not control the quality of the discounted dentistry they sell.

Think about it: Discount dentistry without quality control. Can you think of a worse idea in healthcare?

What’s more, not one Delta Dental, Humana or Cigna executive can be held accountable for causing harm to equally clueless dental patients through underfinanced dentistry they sell. Employees who must choose their dentists from preferred provider lists have forfeited freedom of choice, whether they realize it or not. Their underfunded, substandard dentistry is subsidized by tax payers as a special tax-free benefit, benefiting unaccountable third parties most of all.

For example:

  • Want to know what you get with managed care dentistry? Quick prophys. 
  • How many of you get your teeth cleaned in 30 minutes or less? Do they feel clean?

One Hour

l always allowed my hygienists 1 hour to clean patients’ teeth simply because it often takes that long to do the job right – regardless what insurers say hygienists’ time is worth. The economic climate is tough on fee-for-service.

As I am considering signing on as a preferred provider – not because I want to – I notice that the fees allowed by insurers do not cover the hourly rate of most hygienists… unless they can “clean” teeth, take x-rays, take blood pressure, go over patients’ medical history, allow time for the doctor to do a quick exam and turn around the room in less than 30 minutes.

***

retro dental exam room

***

Assessment 

The motto of my practice is “Dentistry Unhurried.” I don’t want to compete in a race to the bottom which uninformed dental patients always lose.

Conclusion

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 ***

The “Selling-Out” of a Profession [Dentistry]?

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Dentistry …?

[By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS]

1-darrellpruittSeveral years ago, a president-elect of the American Dental Association proclaimed, “The electronic health record may not be the result of changes of our choice. They are going to be mandated. No one is going to ask, ‘Do you want to do this?’ No, it’s going to be, ‘You have to do this.’” (ADA News, October 2008).

Looking back, it is easy to recognize the ADA’s renegade capitulation to HHS as a warning sign of things to come.

The ADA is the same national healthcare institution whose leaders joined Delta Dental in persuading dentists to volunteer for HIPAA’s NPI numbers – never revealing what they are to be used for. It’s the same not-for-profit Chicago corporation which continues to protect non-dues revenue by misleading the nation about the “savings and convenience” of EHRs in dentistry. Among all healthcare organizations, the ADA is alone in their enthusiasm for EHRs and Meaningful Use requirements.

And to top it off, the ADA leadership has progressively become less accessible by the community it serves – NEVER entering into open discussions of urgent dental issues on the internet, even to the extent of ending its commitment to answering dental questions for visitors to Dr. Oz’s Sharecare.com. It’s only dentistry for crying out loud!

As a matter of fact, Dr. Maxine Feinberg, the new ADA President, recently suggested in an interview with the ADA’s Judy Jakush that telephone conversations are “The best kept secret of the ADA which members don’t understand.” What?

Dr. Feinberg: “The best-kept secret is that if you have a problem or complaint, you will likely walk away with a positive experience. And, on the rare occasion that the staff can’t help you, there is a good chance that you will speak to Dr. Kathy O’Loughlin, the executive director. That’s amazing customer service.”

***

Insightful or clueless dentist?

***

What’s not to understand? I understand that ADA membership numbers have taken a hit over the last few years, but nevertheless, the dues of a little over 150,000 dentists still help pay the salaries of ADA employees. That’s a lot of phone calls that will have to be transferred to the right person (the first time), scheduled to call back later or be completely ignored. Isn’t email, or even the US Mail a better idea? Or is lousy communication (unaccountability) with dentists and patients the goal?

About that NPI number

How do you feel about the ADA leading the effort to assess and report your value to your community without ever stepping into your office or talking with a satisfied patient? When you volunteered for your National Provider Identifier at the insistence of the ADA and Delta Dental, you agreed to CMS terms. What? Nobody mentioned that?:

“Spread the mission of the DQA – The DQA, formed in 2008 through a request from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is comprised of multiple stakeholders from across the oral health community who are committed to development of consensus-based quality measures.” By Kelly Soderlund for the ADA News, November 3, 2014.

Does “multiple stakeholders” sound as costly to you as it does to me, Doc? I say we already have too many stakeholders. What about the principals (dentists and their patients) who pay the stakeholders’ bills?

***

eHRs

***

Does anyone disagree that DQA looks like the ADA’s desperate mission creep for cash? With the chronic drop in membership, the Chicago corporation has turned to vigorous pursuit of non-dues revenue – probably in the form of federal grants and stimulus money from HHS. The ADA (which prefers clumsy communication via telephone), is asking state and local dental leaders to put their own personal credibility at risk by persuading uninformed dentists to unquestioningly accept multiple stakeholders’ assessment of their value to society – just like clueless dentists cooperated in the NPI effort.

Dr. David Schirmer, chair of the DQA’s education committee, tells ADA News: “Eventually, all of dentistry will need to understand quality measures. But before we reach our grass roots membership, we need our leaders in dentistry to understand.” He adds, “I’m challenging those leaders to pave the way for their younger colleagues and help them understand the long-term impact this will have on dentistry.”

ADA Editor Soderlund: “The DQA has taken the lead on developing quality measures within oral health care. These measures touch every practicing dentist in the United States, and with dentistry, how it’s modeled and how it’s financed changes in the future — specifically as a result of the Affordable Care Act — they’ll become even more prevalent. The mission of the DQA is to advance performance measurement as a means to improve oral health, patient care and safety through a consensus-building process.”

“— specifically as a result of the Affordable Care Act —“ Since you never respond, ADA, how do we know you haven’t sold us out once again for taxpayers’ money?

Assessment

If it’s difficult for the ADA to hold onto membership now, just wait until the nation’s dentists figure out that Obamacare cannot give everyone A’s on their internet report cards. This means the majority of dentists are going to be pissed at the ADA for their bad grades, no matter what.

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Dental Insurance Doesn’t Exist [video]

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Don’t be Fooled?

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

1-darrellpruittDowney, California dentist John McCallister DDS has produced a splendid video which blows apart myths which keep dental “insurance” companies in business.

The more appropriately called, “discount dentistry brokers” – who casually hide dentists’ concerns – simply cannot survive transparency.

The Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPo4XsYhHPk&feature=youtu.be

Quality?

Let’s face it. Purchasing rushed dental work which Delta Dental discounts more than 30% – or even faster dentistry that is discounted up to 65% by Brighter.com – will always be a foolish investment in one’s health simply because managed care dentistry has NO QUALITY CONTROL.

What’s more, neither Steve Olson, CEO of Delta, nor Brighter.com CEO Jake Winebaum can ever be held accountable for the shoddy work they sell.

Share the Cartoon

The Hippocratic thing to do, Doc, is to share Dr. McCallister’s cartoon with everyone.

As for me, I especially look forward to publicly taunting Delta Dental Insurance Company through @DeltaDentalins on Twitter, as well as CEO Jake Winebaum via @Brighter.com.

Jake blocked me from following @Brighter.com years ago after I asked him about Brighter.com’s quality control measures (There are none. Isn’t that right, Jake?)

Assessment

I pick on Delta Dental and Brighter.com not just because they are unresponsive to dentists’ concerns, but Steve Olsen and Jake Winebaum run the two most harmful examples of sleazy discount dentistry businesses.

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How I Lost my Battle Against the NPI

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Refusing a National Provider Identifier Number

By Darrell K. Pruitt DDS

pruittI can no longer refuse to apply for a National Provider Identifier (NPI). I lost that long battle. Anyone rejoicing?

I’m spent. My leverage has vanished. Telling insurers “I have no NPI” held much more inherent power than “I have an NPI but I won’t share it with you on principle.” Far too many words. My profession has become dominated by unresponsive, unaccountable 3rd parties that dental leaders in the ADA welcome as policy. Working together, they promote and commandeer the technology dentists purchase and clueless patients pay for in increased fees. I have painfully learned that principles are only for dentists who can still afford them, and it’s a bad economy for luxuries.

Non-HIPAA Entity

Since I am not a HIPAA-covered entity and therefore not required by law to adopt an NPI, my capitulation to extortion disappoints me as an American citizen. I still find it hard to believe that an anti-consumer HIPAA rule enthusiastically enforced by the dental benefits industry could force me to “volunteer” for a PERMANENT identifier. As I and 96% of dentists become jerked around by our NPIs, I hope dental historians note that I am the ONLY dentist who publicly asked “Why?” instead of “Why not?” After 6 years, I’m still awaiting an answer to that question from leaders who continue to promote the NPI to dentists while ignoring their questions.

Dental Benefits Providers

I was able to hold out up until Aetna, Delta Dental and other dental benefits providers deprived my office of access to details of patients’ dental benefits unless I have an NPI. I’m waiting for someone – anyone – to tell me how the identifier can possibly improve the dental care of those who pay Aetna and Delta Dental premiums, especially if their benefits are intentionally kept secret from their dentists. I am certain that if the nation’s employers who purchase dental benefits were aware of the transparent nonsense, they would never purchase such products. Where’s the US Chamber of Commerce? Where’s the FTC? How about the US Constitution?

This is exactly why there needs to be more openness in our profession, Doc. The cockroaches who were invited to quietly overrun dentistry cannot withstand transparency, yet I don’t know how much longer I can fight for it without further risking the health of my practice.

As anyone can understand – and as anticipated by corporate executives in the insurance industry as well as by those with vested interests in the ADA Department of Dental Informatics – to have to explain to new patients why I cannot estimate how much they will owe for treatment would destroy my practice. Outside the US, other societies deem it unethical to deny patients informed consent to treatment for any reason. The NPI is such an egregious blunder that I never expect those who promoted to accept ownership.

###

NPI

Assessment

If I lost the battle, who won? Do EDR enthusiasts in the ADA call this a glorious victory and a likely source of ADA pride for decades to come? Or is it much more shameful? Since I lost freedom, I want to know who won?

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On the Protecting Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act

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ADA Makes Progress Against McCarran-Ferguson

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

The ADA makes real progress against McCarran-Ferguson. I’ve watched the American Dental Association fight long and hard against the unfair McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. ADA leaders and I still don’t agree on the need for transparency in the professional organization instead of proud unresponsiveness, but nevertheless, I’ve always been publicly supportive of their efforts to repeal the M-F Act.

Insurance Industry

The insurance industry is powerful in Washington. Over the short term, common sense has proven to be far less influential than their generous campaign contributions – making this a long haul for ADA officials. Yet the amendment to H.R. 5, Protecting Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act, which was offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), a dentist, is finally scheduled to come up for a vote on Thursday, March 22, 2012

Good Work – ADA

http://www.ada.org/news/6926.aspx

If passed, the legislation will restore the application of antitrust laws to the business of health insurance. Makes sense, right? After all, if every other business in the nation, including professional organizations, can be prosecuted by the FTC for collusion, why should Delta Dental, BCBSTX and other members of the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) be exempt from antitrust laws which protect their clients.

I and others are hopeful that this will end many of dental insurers’ current business practices which unfairly force dentists to accept take it or leave it terms that would be unacceptable in a fair market. Maybe the repeal will also make insurance lawyers think twice before alerting the FTC when ADA News speaks honestly about the harm caused by suspiciously similar policies of numerous NADP members.

Assessment

Even if the M-F is repealed, here is an example of truth in dental care that I bet ADA leaders still won’t be able to share with Americans: Unfair downward pressure on contracted dentists’ payments always hurts clueless dental patients the most. Delta Dental’s greed will never be satisfied and dentists’ ethics aren’t free.

NADP, meet the FTC.

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Bitching about Dental Insurance

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Both Hippocratic and Patriotic

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

For the benefit of our trusting patients, let’s start openly discussing the unethical practices of dental insurance companies’ right here. Marketplace conversation about deceit in healthcare is not only the Hippocratic thing to do, but once the awkwardness wears off, it’s really, really fun sport. We simply must lower the cost of dental care in the nation, and I say we start with dental insurance executives’ salaries and bonuses. Are you with me; Doctor? And let’s not forget all the non-productive busywork insurance companies never reimburse us for.

Are you Fed Up?

Are you fed up with successfully doing intricate handwork to exacting tolerances in mouths of anxious patients and then having to fight to get the patients’ insurance company to pay what they rightfully owe THEIR CLIENT? Are you tired of the way anonymous and unaccountable insurance employees treat you and your staff when their company’s contractual relationship is not with anyone in your office?

In my opinion, Delta Dental, United Concordia, UnitedHealth, BCBSTX and most other secretive dental insurance companies have been cheating Americans for decades under the cover of the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 – which protects them from prosecution by the FTC and cries out to be repealed (tell your Congressperson).

The Age of Transparency

Even in the age of transparency, old habits die hard, especially when there is a profit and campaign funds involved. Dental “insurance” has always harbored fraudulent business activities and has never made sense as a wise purchase – even if one doesn’t brush their teeth. It’s a business built on complicated rules, client deceit and intrusion into their relationship with their dentist.

Dental insurance crime as policy has long avoided market correction because up until now, dentists had no control over the media (and dentistry is boring). Not unexpectedly, when business entities are shielded from accountability in an otherwise free market, it is always the clueless consumer who wastes money on lousy dental insurance policies.

IMHO

In my opinion, employers should be offering their employees the choice of cash or dental insurance. Then let Adam Smith’s invisible hand of competition spank the butts of the greedy and deceitful.

Dentists

Dentists, if you were given the opportunity to effectively voice your opinion directly to employers who carelessly purchase bad dental plans they know nothing about according to the appearance of an ad, what would you say? So why aren’t you saying it right here, right now? If not now, when, Doc?

Assessment

If you don’t make your complaints known, do you think MBA benevolence will eventually improve the dental insurance industry in the nation? I say we do what feels natural and bitch. Let’s live on the wild side and take our chances on someone calling us “unprofessional.” We owe it to our patients to promote honesty in our community. Otherwise, how can your silence possibly help your patients?

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ICD-10 is Not an Airplane

It’s Another Part of HIPAA the ADA Won’t Discuss

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

A couple of days following the heads up I posted concerning the imminent upgrade from the tedious ICD-9 coding system to the ICD-10 that is said to be exponentially more complicated, informatics specialist Tom Sullivan posted a signal to fellow coders nationwide: “7 tactics for making ICD-10 urgent.”

http://www.healthcareitnews.com/blog/7-tactics-making-icd-10-urgent 

If you are fed up with unfunded, non-productive and ineffective mandates like I am, I imagine an alert to coders to create urgency in your practice makes your ear lobes burn bright red as well.

Tedious Administrative Tasks 

According to Sullivan, the ICD-10 presents providers with new requirements for “care management protocols, clinical and financial databases and reports, reimbursement, registries, quality management and research.” These requirements do not promote patients’ best interests. These tedious administrative tasks only enable HIPAA-covered entities to get paid.

ADA

If you are a HIPAA-covered dentist with a voluntary but permanent 10-digit NPI number which is required for ICD-10 compliancy, are you aware if ADA leaders have yet described the ICD-10 coding system any better than they described the NPI number that Delta Dental, BCBSTX, as well as the ADA aggressively promoted years ago?

Who knows? The ICD-10 may not even apply to dentistry. Somewhere deep in the HIPAA Rule, there might be a footnote that says “except in dental practices.”

Department of Dental Informatics

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard rumors about HIPAA’s nasty surprises for dentists. Five years ago this month, “quality” control through dental informatics was enthusiastically but perhaps prematurely revealed to me by an excited spokesman for the ADA Department of Dental Informatics. It was his email that equipped me with everything I needed for this 5 year adventure.

Shortly afterwards, the topic of HIPAA became so poisonous for ADA officials to discuss that the misled leaders who unwittingly signed on to promote digital fantasies in dentistry only rarely appeared in print and never on the internet – leaving the responsibility of informing naïve and trusting ADA members about the downsides of EHRs to those who sell EHRs.

Nevertheless, following three years of official silence about HIPAA from the ADA, in the last 14 months there have been two commentaries published in the JADA which promote quality control in dentistry. The first was written by James Bader DDS and appeared in the December 2009 edition of the JADA titled “Challenges in quality assessment of dental care.”

http://jada.ada.org/cgi/content/full/140/12/1456  

Quality Control 

The second commentary concerning quality control was written by Editor Michael Glick DMD titled ““When good may not be good enough — The need for clinical performance measures in dentistry.” (I’m no longer able to access JADA online).

EBD 

HIT stakeholders Bader and Glick, who are both fervent supporters of Evidence Based Dentistry as well as paperless dental practices, carefully tiptoe around what looks to me like an oppressive, micromanaged future for dentists. They both argue what must be a desperate committee-approved talking point – that quality assessment is critically important for ADA members so that fully-licensed dentists will have digital, Evidence-Based proof that their care is better than dental therapists’ who work for much less money.

Are ADA leaders sitting around a big table in ADA Headquarters when they think up this crap?

In addition, the cloistered committee concludes that patients’ opinions of their dentists is too difficult to collect and less reliable than algorithms based on dental claims and other data provided by the ICD-10 (?).

In fact, Dr. Bader is so confident in Evidence-Based digital results, he dismisses the need for any patient involvement in quality assessment: “Patient satisfaction has been shown to be associated only weakly with other assessments of quality of care, which means that it cannot be used as a surrogate for measures of technical quality.” Try telling that to a formerly satisfied dental patient who suddenly must pick his or her next dentist from a “preferred” provider list of strangers.

Assessment 

You mean like Ingenix’s measures of technical quality, Dr. Bader? In 2008, NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo spanked the UnitedHealth subsidiary for selling algorithmic excuses to insurers to be used to cheat out-of-network physicians.

Conclusion

If you are a small business owner who reasonably asks to be paid no more and no less than what one is owed as quickly as possible – if not immediately like all other businesses in the land of the free – I’m pretty sure Sullivan’s 7 pearls intended to make ICD-10 more urgent for doctors will light up the lobes again. And so, your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

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