Dental Care: California Medi-Cal Cut Dental Coverage for 3 Million

California Medi-Cal Cut Dental CoverageThe Los Angeles Times is reporting that ever since California cut coverage for 3 million Medi-Cal recipients two years ago, dentists say patients now wait until infections become so severe they must visit emergency rooms or their teeth must be pulled.

In the Los Angeles Times article, Nagaraj Murthy, a dentist in Compton for the past 32 years, states that ever since California cut back dental coverage, he has lost about half of his adult patients because they don’t have money to pay for dental treatments. He doesn’t charge these patients for preliminary comprehensive exams but said he can’t afford to provide free dental treatment.

The highly anticipated healthcare reforms are not expected to help.

California’s Medi-Cal program no longer pays for X-rays, root canals, dentures, fillings or cleanings. As a result, some dental patients are having their teeth pulled instead of repairing or replacing them.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research states that 12% of U.S. adults 20 to 64 have not been to the dentist within the past 5 years.

For more on this story see: Reduced State Dental Benefits Create Dire Situation for Patients.

Dental Emergencies Increase In Recession

Emergency dental care on the riseIn a recession economy, patients are more likely to defer dental treatment due to economic reasons. In this survey, two out of three dentists reported an increase in emergency calls.

“I do see a lot of patients delaying treatment, and opting for less expensive treatment, but emergency care is still about the same,” offered a Tennessee dentist. Indeed, 31% of dentists said they had noticed no change.

“Our production is the same as last year but our collections are lagging,” said a Kentucky dentist. “More people are making payments on their bills instead of paying them off entirely.”

“We’ve especially seen an increase in cracked teeth due to severe clenching from stress,” noted a California dentist.

Read more: Emergency Dental Treatment Increases in Recession Economy

Dentists Comment on Economic Outlook (Video)

Dental practice marketing with internet videoThe recession hit most Americans pretty hard – and dentists are no exception.

Reduced consumer spending was financially challenging for lots of dental practices.

Finally, the economy seems to be improving.

But not every dentist is convinced that we’ve recovered yet.

“The recession is over for everything but large cosmetic dentistry cases,” said an Illinois dentist.

“I’ve had patients put off fillings, crowns and routine cleanings, examinations, and radiographs because they had to pay their mortgage, car payment and utility bills instead,” said another Illinois dentist.

We conducted a survey asking dentists if they feel like the recession is over at their dental practices.

Jim Du Molin and Julie Frey discuss what dentists think about the economic outlook:

For 56% of dentists in this survey, conducted in 2012, the recession is still going strong. But it’s getting better – when we asked the same question in 2010, 78% thought the recession was still in full swing.

Dentists are particularly aware of consumer spending patterns.

“I’m seeing an improvement in the number of new patients, but they’re still not buying big cases for the most part,” said a Nevada dentist.

“My practice is doing well, but what about my real estate and the cost of gas? I appreciate the practice situation, but it’s only part of the puzzle,” said a California dentist.

“It won’t be over for at least another 5-10 years. It seems like since the recession the rules of etiquette and professionalism are out the door. Dentists bad-mouth other doctors in the same town much more than they used to before the recession,” said a general dentist.

“We didn’t go through a downturn because we quickly assumed that a ‘New Normal’ was in place and adapted to it. This meant becoming even more patient-centered in terms of economics, i.e., being insurance friendly, doing treatment in phases, offering many financial options, doing build-ups instead of crowns. The office philosophy became ‘keep ‘em in the practice’ in 2009, and it stays that way today,” said a New York dentist.

In a tough economy, that’s a great philosophy to have.

The best way to be successful is to adapt to your circumstances.

Economic Changes at the Dental Practice

The recession economy is leading to changes for 3 of 4 dentistsIn this survey, three of four dentists (74%) said they have made changes as a result of the slow economy.

Half (48%) said they’re reducing office expenses, 30% are instituting layoffs or staff reductions, and 13% are reducing employee compensation.

In terms of  dental marketing, 30% have increased their spending, while 9% have reduced marketing costs.

Here are some of their comments:

  • “In rural areas, the downturn is not affecting us as much. We don’t see the big ‘ups,’ but also don’t see the big ‘downs.'” (General dentist)
  • “People are reluctant to spend.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “We are relying upon the internet for more of our new patients, especially Yelp.com.”
  • “Fewer chairside hours.” (California dentist)
  • “We did not lay off team members, but we chose to work with a smaller team and did not replace some team when attrition occurred. Team has 6, including 1 dentist.” (Canada dentist)
  • “We added staff.” (Georgia dentist)
  • “We have added new procedures.” (Texas orthodontist)
  • “We negotiated and joined a couple of dental insurance plans. We negotiated a very good fee schedule and are getting more new patients, too!” (Ohio prosthodontist)

Read more: Recession Economy Affects Dentists, Dental Practices

Dentists: Are Dental Hygienists Worth Their Weight in Gold?(video)

Dentists: Are Dental Hygienists Worth Their Weight in Gold?(video)In our story, Dental Hygienists Among the Fastest Growing Occupations in the U.S. we revealed that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook for 2008-2018 expects the demand to hire more hygienists to perform preventive dental care will continue to grow.

According to the ADA, independent dentists reported paying full-time dental hygienists $33.90 per hour in 2008.

Considering the current economic environment The Wealthy Dentist decided to conduct a survey asking dentists if they pay their hygienists an hourly wage or if compensation is based on commission.

It seems most dentists still pay their dental hygienists an hourly wage, but some feel paying on commission is more fair. Said one dentist, “Hygienists are worth their weight in gold!” Another dentist disagreed saying, “Practices couldn’t run without them, but the current economics barely breaks even at best … hygienists seem to think they are cash cows for the office and fail to recognize the support and facilities the utilize.”

It’s an interesting economic issue. Click on Play to hear more of what dentists say about paying hygienists —

How do you pay the hygienist in your practice?

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