Aside from their willingness to explore dark, moist, cavernous spaces, a propensity proposed by The Redhead as common to dentists and gynecologists, dentists are worth including in the health care morass we’ve expounded upon here. So, I’ll now give you a dentist story or two.
But first, let me say that I don’t have dental insurance, so my relationships with dentists are not complicated by third-party payers. I’m the guy writing the checks and making the decisions.
My periodontist, a real dick, is all about money. Now, you know that the periodontist thing is a yuppie phenomenon—we aging Baby Boomers, if we’re of any means at all, are supposed to have both a G.P. dentist and a periodontist. So, it’s a scam. It’s all about generating revenue by charging a fortune for semi-annual cleaning and inspection, while the G.P. dentist takes care of cleaning and X-rays two more times a year. In any case, I suspect that we’d be just as well off with the old gold standard of dental cleaning and check-ups every six months—period—but I digress.
Yes, my periodontist is a real dick. Two times in the past two years he’s missed appointments. Normally, that wouldn’t bother me, because he’s such a dick, and the hygienist who I’d deal with in his absence is very nice. However, the dick charges his normal fee when he doesn’t show up, and that’s what sticks in my craw. I was supposed to be getting a cleaning and an inspection by a periodontist, for which I’m paying over $100, and all I got those two times was the cleaning. The high-priced doc didn’t show up for his cursory inspection, which normally takes all of 30 seconds. So why the hell is he charging the full fare? Because the doc is a dick.
I even asked his people when they called me to tell me that he wouldn’t be there if his not being there would mean that I would get an appropriate discount. “We don’t do that,” said the receptionist. Of course they don’t do that! Why? Because not only is my periodontist a dick, but also he is a money grubbing dork.
Regarding my most recent appointment, which was to have been about seven weeks ago, I got a call three days in advance saying that my appointment would have to be moved because the hygienist wouldn’t be there that day. Why the hell not just close down the operation completely? So, anyway, in their desire to maximize revenue, they’ve been calling me every couple of weeks saying that they can squeeze me in here or there. “Can you make it at 8:30 AM tomorrow?” Hell no, I can’t. Next time, it’s, “Can you make it at 1:30 PM tomorrow?” Hell no, I can’t. Give me more notice, won’t you? I made my appointment six months in advance. YOU cancelled it. Now, you’re wanting to get me in there on one day’s notice? The response was comical: “We’re trying hard to accommodate you.” To accommodate ME? By disrupting my schedule on short notice? My ass! You’re trying hard to accommodate ol’ doc’s revenue maximization program. I’m not playing that game.
This, of course, is typical of the arrogance one encounters in the dehumanizing health care industry. To reiterate what I’ve said here before, you wouldn’t take this kind of crap from your accountant, your lawyer, or your landscaper. You’re paying them all a fee for services, so they treat you well because you’re their client or their customer. Why the hell does being a patient, as opposed to being a client or a customer, reverse the relationship between service provider and customer, such that the paying patient gets pushed around by the money-grubbing service provider? “My money, my deal” applies everywhere else, but not in the medical arena. Would your gardener raise his rates without discussing the new rates and the reason for the increase with you? Would your accountant? Hell, no—if they were good businesspeople, they would never do that, or they would risk losing you as a customer. On the other hand, my periodontist, who is a dick, raises his fees every year but neither he nor his people make any mention of it. I get the bill—that’s the only “notice” I receive telling me that the fees have increased. And another thing—would your lawyer or your accountant require that you pay the bill on the way out of the office? Hell, no! However, not only is this standard behavior in the medical professions, but also more and more practices are collecting in full on the way in! So much for the trust relationship. Trust is expected, but not given. One-way trust. Why the hell do they think they can get away with this arrogant bullshit?
OK, so speaking of revenue, recall that when I was checking out physicians, I looked at the value of their houses to determine whether they were more interested in making money and hanging out at the club than treating patients. I decided to do the same for my periodontist, who is a dick. It was no surprise that his house is valued right around a cool million. My guess is that he missed my appointments to plan the new north wing or something. All big houses should have names. Let’s call this one Chateau le Dicque.
Let’s contrast my periodontist, who is a money-grubbing dick, with my G.P. dentist, who is a nice guy. My G.P. dentist’s people tell me that if the dentist is not there, they never charge for his services. “That wouldn’t be ethical!” said the hygienist. Out of the mouths of babes—and she is a babe. The last time I went to see the dentist on short notice because a tooth was bothering me, not only did his staff accommodate me with a timely appointment, but also the doc spent a fair amount of time with me discussing the situation and telling me that it would probably resolve on its own—which it did. And when I was done, I went to the front desk and asked how much I owed. I almost wasn’t surprised that the answer was, “Nothing at all this time.” Where do you get something for nothing these days in the allied health care industries? At my dentist’s office and damn few other places. That’s because my G.P. dentist is a nice guy. He is fair, he is competent, and he is a nice guy. What more could I ask?
So, it was no surprise that upon checking my dentist’s property value, I found he was living relatively modestly, in a house worth about $380,000. I also found that he had substantial other real estate investments in the area, including his office building, that came to a couple of million bucks. Good for him. Why? Because he’s a nice guy.
And my periodontist is a dick.