Putting the bite on you

My own dentist has not quite advanced to this stage just yet:

At my dentist’s office, there’s now a full-time person there whose entire job appears to be discussing your bill and how you “wish” to pay for it. I don’t have dental insurance, but from what I hear, insurance pays only a pittance (if that) for most procedures anyway.

After years of doing without, I broke down, so to speak, and bought a dental policy. It covers two annual cleanings, except for the fluoride treatment I usually get, on the basis that I’m too old for that sort of shenanigans; the dentist himself has quipped that if all you need is routine maintenance, the insurance costs more than the treatments. I really haven’t sat down to figure out exactly how much is paid for each type of service, though as is usually the case with health insurance, there’s a maximum price, of which they will pay some defined fraction. Still, the uninsured, to some extent, subsidize the insured, since that maximum price doesn’t apply to folks without the magic plastic card.


  1. fillyjonk »

    5 May 2011 · 7:29 am

    Interesting. I have insurance and it’s close enough to break-even if all I need in a year are two check-ups and cleanings and a set of x-rays. (My dental insurance has never balked at paying for “prophylactic*” care). I think I currently shell out about $30 a month (ten months out of the year) for it.

    And it saved my bacon when I needed the crown preps done; rather than paying somewhere above $1000 for the whole business, I paid $300.

    (*the word prophylactic still makes me giggle like a 12-year-old.)

  2. CGHill »

    5 May 2011 · 7:42 am

    Some policies, it’s safe to say, are a little more generous than others. And I pay a bit less ($240 a year) for mine.

  3. ms7168 »

    5 May 2011 · 10:09 am

    Most of them have a maximum annual benefit which can be annoying. Most dentists know how to work around them by doing just that much work each year until it’s finally all completed. One friend required six years to do all of his.

  4. Ted »

    5 May 2011 · 10:28 am

    I recently got a bill four times what I expected because the office told me that they accept my insurance when in fact they don’t.

    My bad for not checking with my company to be sure, but I raised hell with them for not being careful about answering that question, and specifically asked if they lied because business is bad and they’ll say anything to get patients in the chair. They squirmed when I said that, especially since it was in a waiting room full of people.

  5. Tatyana »

    5 May 2011 · 11:30 am

    Had similar situation to Ted’s: was a patient in one dental practice for 4 years till the doctor passed away and the business was transferred to his friend; that guy did not warned me that he is not going to accept my insurance and then the receptionist sent the bill to me. I did made him to clear my balance – but had no desire to bring more business his way.
    Since for the time being I only need 3 cleanings a year, I shopped around and got myself a bargain – 3 visits with local anesthesia +full-mouth Xray for $300. Out of pocket, no middle man involved, and the Dr. very nice and thorough.


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