Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dental Floss

Yesterday, after I finished my blog posting, I called my HMO dental office in Dover to arrange an appointment to fix my front tooth that is now missing a filling.

I suspected this would not be an easy request.  I was right. It wasn’t easy. First thing the woman in the dental office says to me is how busy they are in the office and then tells me to hold. Now I’m on hold…..for a long time.

She comes back on the phone and I explain to her that a filling fell out of my front tooth and when is the earliest I could see a dentist. She asks me which doctor I use. I don’t remember. It’s a HMO office. She checks and then reads off a list of names. I recognize the name “Patel” and tell her “That’s the one.” She tells me to hold again. Now I’m on hold……again…..for a long time.

She comes back on the phone. She tells me the earliest that Dr. Patel can see me is April 5th. Almost a month away! So I’m going to go snaggle toothed (which is NOT a good look for a front desk clerk at an upscale boutique hotel) for the next month.

I’m a reasonable person and I try to understand these things so I agree. However, once off the phone I’m thinking. “Why can’t I use another doctor in this HMO office?” After all, with an HMO I don’t have a choice of doctors.

I call back. I get the same woman. I ask her if I could have another doctor. She cuts me off with a curt “That’s the earliest Dr. Patel can see you!” By her tone of voice I can tell there is no margin for any other option. I have no choice. Socialized medicine. The end of the world. Bye, bye.

I make inquiries about using another dentist. A Rehoboth dentist comes to mind. He has been recommended to me several times. However, if I use him it would be an out of pocket expense for me because he doesn’t accept insurance. I decide to go for it.

I make the call. A woman named Diane answers the phone. Unlike my previous phone call, she doesn’t tell me how busy they are in their office that morning. She takes the time to listen to me. I don’t feel rushed. I explain my situation and asked when is the earliest I can make an appointment to fix my tooth. She checks the doctor’s schedule and asked me if I could come in Monday. Well, now this is more like it. I made the appointment.

I’m one of the believers that I think health care in this country needs a drastic overhaul. But, I can understand those who are concerned about “socialized” medicine. I’m fortunate in that I could a doctor of my choice when my HMO assigned doctor wasn’t available on a timely basis for me. What would have happened if I had broken my tooth and I was in pain? Wait a month until it was convenient for the doctor’s schedule?

Mortimer Snerd signing off.


Nitewrit said...


Odd. A year ago Darryl had a tooth problem and a good deal of pain. We drove over to a Dentist not to far away and walked in. She wasn't our Dentist, never been there before, and Darryl had no insurance. She took him that day after dealing with a couple patients already there. Turned out he need some further surgery, which she couldn't do there. She made the arrangements with another Dentist to do the surgery the next week. Darryl had to pay out of pocket, but in turned out not to be that great. I forget what the first dentist charged for the visit and emergency treatment. The surgery came to $125.


Ron Tipton said...


Darryl was lucky. I didn't try walking in but I would hope the dentist would take me if I did walk in. I suspect American Dental Associates in Dover, the HMO I use and have insurance with, discourages people from making immediate appointments. I am going to this new dentist in Rehoboth on Monday morning to get this hole in my front tooth fixed. I have no doubt it will cost me at least a couple hundred dollars. I also don't doubt he will want to put a cap on both teeth which can run to much more money. I don't want a cap. When I return to my HMO dentist I'm going to ask them what would I do if I had a serious emergency. I'm curious as to what their answer is. The dentist I am using Monday doesn't accept insurance. I've always had problems with my teeth. That has been my main medical problem all my life.