It’s so easy as a dentist today, to feel as if you are nobody.
The insurance companies, including government’s Medicaid and Medicare companies, are good at teaching people that they CARE about the people who pay them premiums. And that if the care you recommend isn’t covered, it isn’t medically needed, or it isn’t appropriate, or, it’s too expensive if it’s above those carefully crafted words, “usual and customary.”
Whatever is “usual and customary” anyway? (A: Whatever the insurance company numbers are that it is willing to pay.)
Some years ago, I remember hearing a lecture from some Medicaid representatives at a pediatric meeting, who explained they knew the lower fees were different from our other fees, but if we dentists just “change the delivery system, and change our thinking a little bit,” we could help these poor patients in need.
Change the delivery system? Like double-booking to cover for all the failed appointments? Like doing more restorative in one appointment because they may not come back? Even, was it implied, to do a lesser-quality of work?
Change our thinking a bit? Like we orthodontists, pediatric dentists and general dentists are somehow responsible for the missionary work of treating Medicaid patients because they are “poor” and “needy” and so on.
You want to “help people.” Of course. But for lower and lower fees, and more and more time spent in practice, away from family and from the rest of your life?
You can spend hours on the line with “representatives” overseas, who speak poor English as you try to work out the reasons for claim rejection. Or you can pay staff members to do that for hours. Hours. And still, you may not be paid for the care you provided. Not be paid.
Recent news of one industry giant, Aetna, has the internet busy over an executive’s admission that he never actually looked at a single claim before it was rejected.
So, you feel the disparagement of the insurance companies’ treating you poorly, the feeling of not being seen as a professional, but rather as their lackey. Even being seen as someone whose ethics are in question. And the patients often mirror those attitudes. Advertising and media are powerful tools! These giant companies are flush with cash and spending it on what brings in more cash to their shareholders and Big Execs.
You feel that no matter how hard you try, the patients and insurance companies feel you are not trustworthy. Your treatment plan and care is seen as unnecessary and overpriced.
And the dental supply companies? Through salesmen’s pasted-on smiles, seeming like the proverbial “used-car salesmen, they are happy to sell you supplies at outrageous prices, to gain their selling ‘incentives” - cruises and bonuses.
This, all while giant companies buy up small mom-and-pop companies, thus squashing competition, and raise the cost of your supplies and equipment - big-time. (Read more about the lawsuit claiming years of price-fixing. )
You can also read about the FTC’s charging major dental suppliers with conspiracy and anti-trust violations.
And, because of who you are, you’re just working away, doing your best to take care of patients, care for them, and make a dwindling living.
You. Don’t. Feel. Good. About. It.
Or. About. You.
This seems to be directly opposite of what the dental schools tell you as you work really hard to get great grades, pay exhorbitant tuition and fees, and ultimately for many, repay exhorbitant student loans.
You have reached a fantastic moment. You have come face to face with who you REALLY ARE.
What you are is an image of the Creator. You have the ability to create. As a creator you have the ability to innovate. As an innovator, you have the ability to lead. As a leader, you have the ability to love.
Think about how we are set up to understand how to build a great life:
If you are to find your way, you must first experience being lost.
To fall in love, you must first feel desire for love.
To become capable, you start with no capability.
To want to give, you must know need.
Do you see it? Do you see what you must create - and innovate…?
You’ve been given a life, opportunities, education that prepare you for special things.
You create your life. Good start going to dental school! Good start noticing you have been lost. Good start, wanting love and to love. Good start, feeling your desires.
This is your fantastic moment.
Now - you can begin anew - with awareness and understanding of being lost, needing love, pursuing an amazing education, having been given opportunities.
As the great educator, Dr. Louis Smith said, “Your life is about being and becoming.”
Don’t stop at just being. Realize that life is about becoming - that’s where creating and innovation come in.
“As a dentist, you really are somebody special.”
Again: You. Really. Are. Somebody. Special.
Dr Chris Baker
Dr. Chris Baker is Past President of the American Orthodontic Society, a pediatric dentist and teacher of orthodontics, An author, dental practice consultant, mentor, and a current or former faculty member of three U.S. dental schools, Dr Chris practices and blogs in beautiful Abu Dhabi, UAE, and glorious Texas, USA.
Text and images
© 2019 Dr Chris Baker