One of the many problems with the “health care” biz in this country is the simple fact that so many decisions are driven not by patients or doctors but insurance companies.
Dental insurance isn’t much better, but for reasons that many well-intentioned folks seem to ignore when they suggest that better access to dental insurance would help improve access to dental care and, thus, oral health.
Over on Facebook, Dr. Paul Henny posted a terrific commentary  about some of the biggest misconceptions about dental insurance today and how ill-served patients are by its “benefits”-driven approach. Though he shared it in a discussion group geared toward dentists, we think it well worth repeating here in full:
What precisely are dental insurance companies selling, and do their customers even know? In the vast majority of cases, dental insurance is nothing more than a set of false assumptions deceptively promoted:
False Assumption 1: Dental insurance is associated with health promotion, when it’s primarily associated with minimal cost repair promotion.
False Assumption 2: Dental insurance saves people money, when in fact it often promotes focusing on issues-of-the moment and resolving them as cheaply as possible, along with no reflection on how that decision might negatively influence long-term health, as it may very well cost the patient significantly more money in the long-run.
False Assumption 3: Only people who have dental insurance can afford dental care, when many patients are “code mined,” and “up-sold” by practices which are forced into a fee structure which is out of alignment with their true costs.
And all of this is made possible through propaganda machines which 90% of the profession supports through passive aggression strategies.
Let’s suppose car insurance was exactly like dental insurance, and it covered everything from oil changes to body work and engine repair. And it allows access (with their prior approval of course) to $1500.00 /year in services, beyond that – you are on your own.
Now, let’s say that on your way to work, a person pulls in front of you and significantly damages your pride-and-joy-of-a-car. The repair bill comes to $4500.00, and the insurance company wants to choose the parts and repair center.
What would you do? Would you repair only $1500.00 per year and eventually get it all finished in three years?
And what other problems could occur during that time? And how would the long-term value of your car be influenced by this approach?
Would you consider this to be “insurance”?
And if so, what is actually “insured,” as the only thing truly insured is the insurance company’s bottom line.
As a profession, we need to find ways to turn away from these arrangements, as they are clearly lose-lose-win. We need to make dentistry about something much more important than just the cheapest parts delivered at the lowest, fastest, and most limited rate possible.
Health-centered / relationship-based dentistry is that alternative. But it requires a very different approach to people and problems; one that insurance companies will try to undermine at every turn, yet represents the only professional future for dentistry.
This is the kind of approach we were talking about last week , what we called “slow dentistry.”
Sure, we take insurance as a convenience to our patients who have dental benefits, but the kind of care we provide always begins with developing a positive relationship with you, with clear, open, and honest communication on both sides. It’s about trust and respect. It’s about doing what’s best for you. It’s about working with you and teaching you so that you can make the best decisions for your care – decisions that align with your own needs, priorities, values, and desires, not ours.
Want an idea of how we work with the patients who turn to us for help? Check out this video  made by wellness coach Kori Anne Nuerge.
Questions about how we might be able to help you on your own path to optimal health and wellness? Just give our front desk a call at 209-838-3522.
As for why dental insurance is the way it is? Check out “The Trouble with Dental Insurance”  over at HuffPo.