Should SLDG Accept the New Military Insurance Plan?

Author: Dr. David Dickerhoff, DDS, MAGD, FOCOI

Back in August of 1996, Spring Lake Dental Group opened its doors and immediately began to accept the Military dental insurance plan both for its active duty family members and its retirees.  Dr. Dickerhoff had decided to locate his private practice outside the gates of Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base because of his close ties with the military as well as his sense of wanting to ‘give back’ to the country that we all love.  The military did not put him through dental school and Dr. Dickerhoff voluntarily separated from the military after fourteen years of honorable service.  But his three years of residency training at Fort Sill and Fort Bragg instilled in him a deep respect of military families and the sacrifices they make for us all.  His service during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, his Bronze Star as well as his Master Parachutist’s and Expert Field Medical Badges are evidences of his strong feelings towards the military.  He has continued to accept military insurance during the twenty years he has served the Spring Lake community and has been successful in creating a business model within his practice that allows him to run a profitable company while he provides jobs for roughly thirty support personnel.

The current contract that Congress has approved for United Concordia continues the disturbing trend of interfering with the relationship of the patient with their doctor.  Insurance companies have identified disturbing trends within the dental profession that allow them to have reimbursement rates that have squeezed the profitability within the profession to nearly unacceptable levels.  For example, the most recent payment schedule published by United Concordia for the Spring Lake area allows reimbursement for a ceramic crown to be $671.16.  In 2011, United Concordia’s contract reimbursement rate was $728.00.  The company that United Concordia undercut, MetLife, which had the previous schedule of benefits, allowed $797.00.  The fee for this service within our dental practice is set at $1,288.00.  If you look at the American Dental Association’s standard fee schedule for the Middle Atlantic states, we have our fees set at the 50-60 percentile rank.  I could give you fifty mores examples of this type of devaluation of dental services, but the way that it affects you should be pointed out.

The bar has been set very low for a company to win a bid for supporting your efforts in serving your country.  The low bar makes it difficult for us as dental professionals to provide the outstanding care that you deserve.  Many practitioners have decided not to accept this low bar and that only makes it difficult for you to find a provider that is near, convenient and that you share a great rapport with.  My feeling is that you deserve better from your elected officials.  If you share this view, please communicate it to them.  In the meantime, we philosophic dentists who hold dear our relationship with our military families and retirees, will try to keep our practices afloat.  I hope my rant does not come off as being self serving.  We truly love the honor of taking care of you and hope to do it incredibly well into the future.