On Dental Economics and Truth in Advertising

About Dentistry iQ

D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

I just read a misleading press release on Dental Economics subsidiary Dentistry iQ that is presented as a credible article titled “Guardian Recognized as One of the Nation’s Leading Dental Carriers by Benefits Selling Magazine Readers” (no byline).

http://www.dentistryiq.com/index/display/news-display/1307102704.html

“NEW YORK, Nov. 19, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), one of the largest mutual life insurers and a leading provider of employee benefits, today announced that it has been recognized by the readers of Benefits Selling magazine as one of the nation’s leading dental insurance carriers for the second consecutive year…”

My Research 

I did some quick research on Guardian’s discount dentistry plans and I have some questions for Dental Economics Vice President Lyle Hoyt – the official who approved the advertisement deal (as far as anyone can tell). First of all, how come at least 19 out of the 25 Austin, Texas dentists listed in their DentalGuard Preferred Provider list work for “clinics”? 12 of them work for Castle Dental.

http://www.geoaccess.com/guardian/po56/DisplayResults.asp

It took me 3 minutes to come up with this information. I ask you, Lyle, did you do any fact checking before you took Guardian’s money? I also glanced at Guardian’s PPO lists from other cities with the same result – If one purchases DentalGuard, one should be prepared for McDentist.

My Bias 

But maybe I judge Castle Dental too harshly. After all, I am admittedly biased. To me, a name on the door of a business connotes accountability backed up by transparency and a suggestion of permanence. Guardian officials should know that their clients don’t like to change dentists, so why are so many of them sent to Castle – 12 months per contract period? And how good of a job is Castle doing? So, I checked the Austin Better Business Bureau to see if Castle Dental has a history with them. Indeed they do! Of the 5 encounters Castle Dental has had with the Austin BBB, they were awarded grades of 3 Bs and 2 Fs.

http://austin.bbb.org/Find-Business-Reviews/

If Castle Dental’s dentists had college grades like that, they would have never made it to dental school. Although, if they lived in New Mexico, I hear one can do discount dentistry as a dental therapists with little more than a high school education … sorry. I digress.

The Advertisement 

The ad for Guardian’s discount dentistry continues: “Benefit Selling’s readership of 55,000 benefits brokers voted Guardian as one of the top dental carriers in the 2010 Readers’ Choice Awards, which were announced in the magazine’s November issue. With more than 70,000 dentists, Guardian boasts one of the largest dental networks in the country and was cited by one participant as ‘the most innovative carrier for dental and a great partner for all ancillary products from life to DI and vision.’”

So Guardian is both “Innovative” and “a great partner” in dentistry? Really-Lyle? Those who stand to profit from dental therapists in New Mexico say the same things – based on an experiment in Alaska that involved 5 therapists and 300 patients … Sorry. There I go again.

My Business Policy Interpretation  

Please allow me to share my interpretation of Dental Economics business policy: If it’s a paid ad with no byline and no opportunity for troublemakers to comment – thus protecting Dental Economics VP Lyle Hoyt – nobody spends any effort checking for misleading and harmful information their bosses promote. After all, even if someone were to demand personal accountability from an online publisher like Dental Economics, what harm could they possibly do to such a well-established news outlet’s credibility? Let’s just see.

Assessment 

I know Dental Economics has to make money somehow, but you should show more respect to dentists and more compassion for dental patients, Lyle Hoyt.

Conclusion

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Direct Reimbursement [DR] and RiskManagers.Us

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Transparent Dental Benefits versus Confusion

[By Darrell K. Pruitt; DDS]

pruitt

“If you are not a part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.” 

Company slogan- www.riskmanagers.us

Meet Mr. William Rusteberg

Today, I met William Rusteberg on the PennWell forum when he replied to the thread, “Why the long NPI, BCBS-TX?” which I copied below, along with my response which includes a plug for Direct Reimbursement [DR].

http://community.pennwelldentalgroup.com/forum/topics/why-the-long-npi-bcbstx?page=1&commentId=2013420%3AComment%3A26976&x=1#2013420Comment26976

Mr. Rusteberg represents a company called RiskManagers.Us, whose specialty involves the benefits market, yet it is not exactly an insurance company – just like there is no such thing as true dental insurance.  RiskManagers.us is a firm that works directly with businesses to identify and develop cost-effective benefits packages – emphasizing transparency and fairness.  Now that is refreshing, friends! 

Defining RiskManagers.Us 

Here is how RiskManagers.us describes itself: 

“We do not work for an insurance company, we work for you. As an independent brokerage, and consulting firm we can represent any licensed insurance company in Texas, Colorado, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Illinois & Florida.”

If one visits the Web site’s “Reference Library,” here are some of the topics offered:

·         Self Funding – Need a second opinion?

·         Texas leads in transparency issues

·         Can’t get claim information? HB 2015 May Solve Your Problem

·         Medical Stop Loss Through a Captive

·         PPO Discounts – Games People Play

·         PPO Networks – Shell Game

·         Can Hospitals waive Deductibles in Texas?

“What is a NPI number?” 

Mr. Rusteberg’s initial question on the PennWell forum simply asked, “What is a NPI number?”  Following my explanation, he wrote: 

 “It seems that many of those in your profession would do well in accepting cash only, or directly working with employer groups who sponsor dental/medical plans on a direct pay basis. We have had good success in doing this for our clients – we have one employer in San Antonio who pays medical care providers directly and quickly – providers like it and the plan pays a fair and reasonable rate, not relying on a PPO network to “re-price” claims. We have done the same on dental plans, eliminating the insurance company, PPO network and paying dental care providers submitted charges directly and quickly. We see little or no trend increases on dental charges using this method. In my view, insurance companies interfere in patient – provider relationships in a financially detrimental way.”

Thanks for your reply.

My Response:

I like you, William; 

What you describe sounds like my all-time, personal favorite dental benefits plan. It is called Direct Reimbursement {DR}, and it not only gives the employer the unlimited capability to design a plan which reflects the level of commitment desired by the company, but most importantly, it naturally preserves quality of care by allowing employees unlimited freedom of choice in dentists.  And that’s as good as the market gets. 

http://www.directreimbursement.com/

In addition, since there are no NPI requirements for DR, employees are also permitted see dentists who decline NPI numbers for ethical reasons. That increases employees’ choice by 50% over BCBS-TX clients, according to recent information provided by the Healthcare IT Transition Group.

http://www.npidentify.com/stats.htm#states

Little Management Needed

Just like the benefits plans you mention, with DR, very little money is spent on management because such policies are so simple and transparent that there is no room for profit-enhancing (wasteful) confusion used by unethical companies like BCBSTX, Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealth, Delta Dental, United Concordia, and so many other members of the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP).

Assessment

Without transparency and the invisible hand of freedom-of-choice, free-market competition for healthcare dollars disappears as fast as executive bonuses rise. We’ll see where it goes from here. It would sure be swell if a Direct Reimbursement representative takes interest in the conversation; anyone home? 

Conclusion

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.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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BCBS-TX Dental Insurance is Rude to Everyone

Why the Long NPI – BCBSTX?

[By Darrell Pruitt; DDS]pruitt5

More than a year ago, Dr. Robert Ahlstrom, an ADA [American Dental Association] and NHII (National Healthcare Information Infrastructure) task force member, told attendees to the ADA’s 3rd International Evidence-Based Dentistry Conference that the NPI number is

“Critical to the future of dentistry.” 

But, to this day, he refuses to reveal why. Even though I have learned that he is a very shy man on the Internet; on that Sunday in May in ADA Headquarters, he confidently added,

“It is only voluntary unless you want to get paid.” 

His case-closed proclamation shut down discussion cold in a Soviet manner. Did I mention that this occurred at an “Evidence-Based Dentistry” conference? Soviet East Germany was also called the German Democratic Republic.

NPI Harmful to Dentists and Patients

There is nothing evidence-based or otherwise about the NPI number – that benefits anyone but healthcare stakeholders. In fact, the number actually harms both dentists and patients. Like Ahlstrom, the irreversible NPI number is simply un-American. However, the NPI means profit for sleazy dental insurance companies like BCBS of Texas – especially when dentists’ reimbursements for work done long ago are delayed by NPI-NPPES screw-ups.  Some physicians’ payments have been delayed for a year or more because of NPPES crosswalk difficulties. Who needs that?

Veteran’s Example Scenario

A new patient called my office this week wanting an appointment to start a crown. We don’t normally block off two and one-half hours for a patient on the first visit, but the Veteran told my office manager that before he was recently discharged, they did a root canal, post build-up and temporary on a tooth that still needs a crown. I like to think other dentists would also risk big holes in their schedules for Veterans. We owe them at least that much.

BCBSTX Dental Insurance

When he showed up with his BCBSTX dental insurance information, my office manager had to tell him that even though his boss was promised by the BCBSTX sales representative that the dental benefits package he bought for his employees was good anywhere, it cannot be used in my office because I do not have an NPI number. I am licensed to practice dentistry in the state of Texas, but that is not enough for BCBSTX. Capricious qualifications are certainly their choice if they prefer to do business that way in Texas, but why does BCBSTX leave it to my office manager to inform their clients about their deception?  If a client who pays premiums to BCBSTX likes a dentist who does not have an NPI number, those premiums are pure profit for BCBSTX. It is easy to understand that the more obstacles BCBSTX can put between their clients and obligations to cover their dental bills, the bigger are the bonuses for executives. What’s more, BCBSTX’s leaders’ lousy work ethic permeates the entire dental insurance industry. Compared to BCBSTX executives, AIG executives who kept bonus money should be honored as national heroes. 

BCBSTX Rude to Everyone 

As the Veteran who almost became my patient works to fit him-self back into society, perhaps the next opportunity he has to break away from work for a few hours, he will be lucky enough to come across a dentist who has an NPI number. If things go well, BCBSTX will not have wasted a Veteran’s time twice – and wrecked a dentist’s schedule – for what? BCBSTX has nothing against Veterans in particular, they are rude to everyone.  Since nobody from the company can be held personally accountable, tyranny is as natural as Ponzi schemes.

Attention Texas Employers: 

I wish deceptive business practices which insurance companies use to cheat their clients were against the law in Texas. Attention Texas employers; as a dentist who has witnessed harm from BCBSTX, I warn you not to waste money on their dental plan. BCBSTX’s sales reps cannot be trusted to tell the truth and will aggravate your employees as well as neighborhood dentists. 

Assessment

If BCBSTX gets away with this dishonesty, what other senseless, but profit-enhancing hoops will they demand next year?  How many more dentists and patients can an Attorney General allow them to cheat before speaking up? Come out and fight for your honor, BCBSTX … or not.  I bring more than your best attorney can handle and I am waiting.

Conclusion

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.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

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