If you need a break, ask

    As a dentist in practice for 21 years, I’ve seen these economic cycles before. My policy is this: Any patient who tells me they are losing insurance coverage and has been in my practice for more than a year I give this same response - Do not omit regular visits because you do not have the money for them. Let me or my staff know you will be paying monthly. Delaying visits allows something small to grow into a large, expensive problem. In my years in practice I’ve never declined necessary treatment to anyone due to an inability to clear their balance on the day of services. I believe most of my colleagues do the same. My advice is to be honest with your dentist and ask if he/she would accept monthly payments. We’re all in this together.

    The above letter was in a NYT comment thread about health insurance. The dentist brings up an important point: YOU CAN ASK ANYBODY ANYTHING. The worst they can say is no. (Usually, they do not add anything, as in “No, you cheesy idiot.”)

    One caveat on dentists—they are really, really into doing these long wish lists they call “treatment plans,” containing every single little thing they can think of. I had one listing eight cavities—turns out these were “rough spots” that might become cavities.

    As for payments, I also read that some doctors are demanding your deducible in cash, upfront. If you come in with a serious condition and you are starting your 2009 deductible of say, $500, the doctor can say, give us the whole $500 today.

    To me, that would be my last visit. This is not a welcome ploy, docs. See above—the part about us all being in this together.

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