by Jim Du Molin
Ten years ago, Dr. Jeffrey Moyer enlisted in the Missouri Army National Guard. This past September, he was called to active duty and deployed to Iraq. He spent several months stationed 50 miles north of Baghdad at Camp Anaconda, never leaving the camp’s 10-block area. Dr. Moyer spent most of his time serving as a dentist to American and coalition forces, although he also performed oral surgeries on insurgents.
Meanwhile, as Dr. Moyer was serving his country, Delta Dental decided to play games with his practice and his family’s security. While Dr. Moyer was away, his wife (and operations manager) Jane worked hard to keep their dental practice going and meet the needs of their patients. The couple sent letters to dentists they knew asking if they might occasionally be available to fill in for Dr. Moyer. They were overwhelmed by the response. Nine doctors stepped up to the plate, providing emergency on-call service as well as seeing 1,100 of Dr. Moyer’s patients while he was stationed in Iraq.
And so Dr. Moyer returned from Iraq to a practice just as vibrant as he left it. His patients were happy and his community supportive. His dental colleagues were happy to help him out in any way possible. The Internet Dental Alliance also donated its services during Dr. Moyer’s absence. Crisis averted, right?
Well, not quite. Although his practice paid the assisting dentists for their work, they are having a hard time recouping that money from Delta Dental. Apparently Delta Dental has been unwilling to pay Dr. Moyer’s practice for appointments covered by other dentists unless those dentists also sign up with Delta Dental.
Instead Delta sent reimbursement checks directly to the patients and not the practice. Did they think this one through? The doctor was overseas defending our country’s policies; regardless of how you feel about the war, it’s clear that Dr. Moyer is living according to his personal standards of integrity. In the meantime, his practice needed to pay the temporary associates who filled in during his absence. After paying the practice’s fixed expenses for rent, supplies and team, this doesn’t leave a lot for his family to live on.
Delta is playing “stick it to the doctor” by sending the payment checks directing to the patients. The patients, of course, immediately cash the checks and buy new flat-screen TVs. This leaves the doctor’s family scrambling to explain Delta’s insurance rules to patients, rebilling and trying to collect the money. His practice has not yet resolved this issue.
Jim Du Molin