The Support We Need

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

A patient interaction caught me by surprise the other day and after much reflection, I would like to respond with my thoughts.

A woman came int0 the office for a new patient examination. A comprehensive treatment plan was presented to her and her husband who was in the operatory with her. We invite all interested parties that are on a signed HIPAA form to be in the operatory to be eligible to ask questions and hear our diagnoses and proposals. The couple looked at our recommendations and were leaving the operatory when I encountered them in the hallway. The husband was visibly upset and challenged me with the question as to why I did not accept his particular insurance. “You are in charge here. You have the ability to decide what insurances get accepted. Why do you not accept my wife’s insurance?” This challenge upset me because I had previously looked at his wife’s needs and knew that she would benefit from our services.

I came into this profession to assist people in meeting their health care needs and it bothered me that they would not be appointing with me to meet these needs. I moved to Spring Lake back in 1996 and established my fledgling practice as a way to say ‘thank you’ to those people I had served with during my fourteen years of military service. The military allowed me to “grow up’, taught me discipline, and gave me a sense of how to accomplish a mission. I learned to love soldiers, their families and retirees. I decided to accept military insurance as well as retiree plans as a way to honor that the sacrifice that soldiers and their families make. It is not an easy lifestyle. In fact, the main reason I left the military after fourteen years was because I wasn’t willing to accept moving to a new duty station after I fell in love with North Carolina and met my now wife, Janice and wanted to start and raise a family.

Becker’s Dental Review (8/10, Portalatin) reported that “dental practice expenses rose higher than revenue in 2022, according to data from the American Dental Association”. Between 2013 and 2017, “median annual practice expenses for general practitioner owners were $540,928”. That number rose to “$582,730 between 2018 and 2022, a 7.7% increase. Between 2013 and 2017, “median annual practice revenue for general practice owners was $741.195.” That number hit “$757,549 between 2018 and 2022, a 2.2 percent increase.” Moreover, general dentists worked 4.5% more hours in 2022 than the average from 2000-2019, or an extra 1.5 hours per week. Not trying to cry the blues here. I love what I do and I love my profession. American citizens need to be writing their congressional representatives and asking them to better support their military members. We did not negotiate a very favorable contract with insurance companies to support our service members, their families or retirees. It’s easy to say, “support my insurance company”, but they are in business to make a profit. My motivations are to keep my company solvent as I try to take excellent care of our service members, their families and our retirees.