Health funds and dentistry

Over the years things have got more complicated.  Remember when there was one phone company, and everyone new what the special low rate times were to call?  Dentists used to have a health fund guide as to what patients could get back for any treatment but now different patients get different amounts back for the same treatments even when in the same fund.  There is now a push for dentists to affiliate with particular funds and be called ‘preferred providers’ – that means patients have less gap to pay or even no gap for treatment after their health fund rebate if they go to these practicioners.  My concern is this:

Health funds are a business and even non-for-profit ones need to maximise their pool of funds to pay out for large unexpected claims.  Dentists accept these preferred agreements so they can attract more patients, but they treat these patients at a lower fee.  For the dentist to make the same income, they must see more patients.  History has shown that the fees paid by funds increase by a minimum over the years because the fund needs to maximise its profit, so as costs increase from updated materials, new modern equipment, and inflation the dentist must see more and more patients and work faster.

Does a tired fast working dentist sound like the best way to have your mouth treated.  Ok, I can do a filling faster – but you should ask – how long will it last?  is this quality? – and the cost of poor quality dentistry in the long term is far greater.  I would rather just try to do my absolute best, in an appropriate time, for an appropriate fee.  I hope my patients realise that my goal is to keep their mouths as healthy as can be for life. 

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