Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Dentists and the Healthcare System

Went to the dentist today.  Not my favorite way to spend the afternoon.  Growing up I think I saw a dentist once or twice--it wasn't a thing for my family.  Consequently I've some irregular teeth, which is appropriate since I'm an irregular person.  A couple appointments ago my dentist asked about braces.  I barely restrained my laughter--not at my age.

Anyway I had a couple fillings while in the Army, then mostly avoided dentists again until my first wisdom tooth decayed and needed to be extracted.  I eventually hooked up with my wife's dentist--he was a monosyllabic single practitioner who did all his own work, perfectly fitted my preferences.  But then he retired and I had to find a new one, which I eventually did in Reston.

For the first time I started looking to my healthcare insurance to pay part of the dental costs.  It's strange because Kaiser, my health insurance company with which I'm very satisfied, doesn't do dentistry as it does other health issues, by employing its own dentists.  Instead they contract with a dental insurance company.

So the bottomline is there's three parties involved, four when you count my teeth.  Ordinarly I think of myself as an informed consumer, but not now, not with these players.  Instead when my dentist speaks, I salute and say "yes, ma'am", take my medicine and pay whatever bill is presented.  (A slight exaggeration--I just vetoed a separate appointment for a small filling in favor of combining it with my next 3-month (3-month!!) appointment.  But it turns out the three parties have their own problems in keeping their paperwork straight.  My dentist tried to explain the confusion to me (she didn't have a receptionist--hard to get help these days) but failed--I just paid the bill.

My bottom line: as with my sister years ago, I'm amazed by the administrative dysfunction of our healthcare system.

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