Are You An HMO Provider?

This is a question we are often asked by our patients when their company switches to an HMO/PPO dental plan, and we hope to clear up much confusion by answering it now. Before I answer, Here is an ad for a dental practice looking to hire a dentist that recently was run in Craigslist for Westchester County.
“High volume Westchester practice looking for a motivated individual to join our team. Experience in insurance and medicaid is helpful. We’re looking for two or three weekdays to start. It is a salaried 9-5 position.”Now, please ask yourself, what is missing from this ad (and this is the entire ad, I did not edit anything out)?? What about the traits that you would want your dentist to have; you know, things like skill level, experience, continuing education just to name a few…… are you really looking for a “motivated individual” experienced in “insurance and medicaid” working in a “high volume” practice to perform the dentistry on you and your family? The person who responds to this ad is not a bad person; they will simply be facing the reality of working in an INSURANCE driven practice wherby people (ie. you, the patient) and people’s real needs become secondary to the business demands of working in a business with little incentive or reward for quality treatment.

So here is what everyone needs to know about the business side of dentistry BEFORE choosing your dental provider…. dentists are often solicited 3-4 times a month by insurance companies to join their “family” of HMO or PPO dentists. Contrary to popular public belief, there is no quality control or screening process to select top dentists in the area. In fact, the insurance companies make no evaluation or assessment of a dentist’s clinical skills whatsoever. Basically, the only prerequisites I’ve ever seen to sign up as a HMO/PPO provider are: 1) do you have a license to be a dentist and 2) do you have a heartbeat (and I’m not sure about the latter.)

The promotional material provided to you the patient by this multi-billion dollar insurance company is very appealing. It makes it sound like you have just won the lottery, and there really is a free lunch, or so it seems. It appears that everyone wins in this deal: you, the patient, now get FREE (or greatly reduced) cleanings, x rays, exams, and perhaps even fillings. Even the major treatment is cheaper-you are ecstatic! The upper management of your employer has a much cheaper premium to pay each and every month-they are ecstatic! On a recent train trip from New York to Kentucky (don’t ask, but I really did it) I couldn’t help but to notice that through every city, small and large the largest building in every city had the name of a major insurance company proudly engraved on the top. The insurance company executives are among the most highly paid in the business world-they are more than ecstatic.

So who is the loser here? Everyone seems to be getting more for less, this must be the mystical free lunch at last! Unfortunately, it isn’t. There has to be someone absorbing the costs of all this free or cheaper treatment. You may have guessed it already, it’s the HMO dentist primarily, and then ultimately you the patient.

Now you might ask “why would anyone want to work harder for less money?”

This is a really great question that we in the profession have asked ourselves. Let’s look at why anyone would do this?

The insurance company attempts to dazzle the prospective dentists with the promises of wealth, endless patients, busy practices, happy patients, and then they add, “Oh, did we forget to mention that you will have to give away many services for FREE and cut the rest of your fees by 30-50%? But don’t worry about that,” they quickly point out, “because you will have two to four times as many patients to try to see in order to make up for the lost revenue. You’ll just have to work a little faster.” (No wonder the craigslist ad mentioned above described the practice as “high volume.” Should we really be talking about people/patients as volume?? To me, it just seems wrong).

To some dentists, however, the temptation is too great and they sign up only to quickly realize that their soul now belongs to the insurance company. I believe that a automobiles, and bottles of Windex can be made more quickly with no loss in quality (see Toyota, Honda, Nissan , etc. for details). I do not feel that dentistry can be performed the same way.

Understand that as an HMO provider dentist, you are paid $2-8 per month per family or patient whether or not that patient ever shows up in your office! Now if the patient does want to show up and get their teeth cleaned or a filling done (which the dentist is, by contract, often required to do for FREE), do you think that dentist actually wants that patient to come in?

This is the game the HMO provider has to play with you, the patient, in order to stay in business. Now you see why it might be difficult for you to be seen for a routine visit or in an emergency. The biggest complaints from patients in and HMO practice is that they cannot get an appointment or they never see the same dentist twice. Is it any mystery now why that is the case?

In my opinion, and in my case (see “What makes you different from any other dental practice I can visit” below) to be an HMO provider, I would be forced to sacrifice quality, service, and the personal attention we give to our patients. In short, we would be forced to compromise the standards I have set for my office. I could not nor would ever do that; as I stated earlier, my dad instilled in me a sense of pride about being a dentist. This upbringing is something that I will never compromise upon. As an HMO dental provider we would have to use cheap labs, cheaper materials, work faster, and cut corners. Many corners would have to be cut that you would not be aware of, but would likely compromise the type of treatment offered (or not offered), and/or the expected longevity of treatment.

Several years ago one of my friends was in an HMO medical plan and had lower back spasms. She went to her designated orthopedist and after a brief examination, was given some muscle relaxants. After several days, her condition was no better and she tried to get another appointment. She was told that she must have no pain tolerance and would have to get used to it (emphasis mine). I told her “you just don’t understand the HMO insurance game.” This same scenario was reported on 60 minutes a few years ago in a story involving HMO psychiatric medicine.

The medical profession has all but lost the war to the insurance industry. The story has been well documented, including making the cover of Time Magazine. The dental profession still has, by and large, the freedom of choice. As long as that continues, I will endeavor to provide my patients with the best that dentistry has to offer.

Do You Accept My Insurance?

We are a Cigna Dental PPO Office, and we work with nearly all insurance plans as a non-participating provider. This means we work very hard to help you get the maximum reimbursement from your insurance company while still having the freedom to offer you the full range of treatment options that modern dentistry has to offer.
Just bring your card to your first visit and we will take care of the rest-we will print, document, and mail your insurance forms for you after each visit. In short, we will make the often difficult insurance process easy, maximize your allowable benefits (as determined by the plan that your employer has purchased for you), and do all of the paperwork for you. We will also be sure to fully discuss with you-our patient – all fees and financial options BEFORE any treatment is started. We will then come up with a comfortable financial plan to allow you to complete your treatment. Once we have a financial plan in place, you will be able to pay us either directly or from one of the many payment options that we are able to offer to you.

Do You Offer Payment Plans?

We are very proud of the variety of payment options that we offer ranging from interest free to regular choices that allow you to spread payments over several years. One of our most popular payment choices are our 3,6 and even 12- month interest free periods; payments can then be spread out comfortably to fit into your monthly budget. These options require no down payment at all, have no application nor annual fees, and allow you the option to pre-pay at any time without penalty. Best of all, the entire application process requires just a simple phone call.

Do You Accept Referrals?

Of course! We are always happy to accept referrals from other dental offices as well as from recommendations by our patients to their family and friends. Your referrals are our best compliments! And remember when you refer someone to us, second opinions and consultations are always done at no charge.

What Makes You Different From Other Local Westchester County Dentists?

When you become a patient of our practice, we think of you as a person, not just another set of teeth to fix and clean. My father, who was a dentist from 1957-1993 would always tell me “never forget that attached to each tooth is a person, a whole person, and often an anxious person.” That message became ingrained within me as a boy growing up, and I feel that I have never lost touch with that basic, seemingly intuitive fact. But for some reason, however, I believe that most of the medical world has lost the human element in patient care. Most medical facilities are now large, impersonal clinics; with large waiting rooms loaded with patients, large overburdened staffs, and doctors racing between treatment rooms.

I have made a concerted effort to be sure that my practice will never loose sight of who is most important to us; YOU. You will always be the most important person to us whenever you visit our office or when we speak with you on the phone. Our goal is to blend old world levels of customer service with the newest technology available. The result is a completely unique health care experience.

What Do I Do If I Have An Emergency And The Office Is Closed?

Give us a call 914-271-6224 at any time, and there will be clear emergency instructions if you are calling after office hours.

What Do You Do For Patients Who Fear The Dentist?

If you suffer from dental anxiety, we can do just about everything you could ever imagine to make you more comfortable in our Design Studio. From our calm, soothing office demeanor and colors, to offering you personal noise-cancelling headphones equipped with your own personal TV, with options to watch Netflix, listen to your own choice of music or a movie, to sedation with our anesthesiologist, to nitrous oxide (laughing gas) we can work with you to help you achieve your dental dreams and goals.

We are also able to offer complete sedation services in our office for those people who might benefit from this service. We understand many people have qualms about having their teeth worked on (an ADA survey suggests that up to half of the population does not regularly visit the dentist), so we will do everything possible to make your experience comfortable.

What Is Smile Design?

Your face is not like anyone else’s-your smile shouldn’t be either. That’s why we take into account the unique features of your face, including its symmetry and lip line. Working with you, we’ll develop a unique “perfect” smile, one that is proportional and flattering to your face. Smile design will allow us to show you what that perfect smile can look like (See FAQ above “Can you show me what my smile will look like ahead of time?”).

Smile Design involves our listening to – and understanding – your dreams for your smile. We then apply several artistic principles (such as Michelangelo’s GOLDEN PROPORTIONS ) and technical principles (such as how your teeth fit together) to come up with an esthetic smile which is as unique as you are!

Can You Show Me What My New Smile Will Look Like Ahead of Time?

Yes! Not only can we use dental imaging to help our patients visualize the end results of cosmetic and restorative work, but we also routinely use a unique process that we call our SMILE DESIGN COSMETIC PREVIEW. To be brief, this preview is an actual 3 dimensional of your own proposed new smile. By simply asking the right questions, taking various photos of your current smile, and figuring out exactly what you would like your new smile to look like (we really try to “get into your head” to figure out exactly what you like or don’t like about your current smile) we are then able to close gaps, straighten, lengthen, and/or change contours of any areas that might require enhancement.

All of these changes are done on a precise model of your teeth BEFORE any changes are actually made to your own smile. The benefits of using this process is a predictable, gorgeous result.

How Long Will My New Smile Last?

While no dentist is allowed to guarantee their work in any way for any length of time due to the many variables that teeth can be exposed to ( including issues such as trauma, cavities, and gum disease), I am proud to work with Jason J. Kim Dental Aesthetics Laboratory. Jason Kim Labs uses master ceramist’s to create personalized veneers and crowns, and is well known for the exquisite beauty and consistency of their porcelain crowns and veneers.

eMax porcleain (which can be used for veneers, crowns, caps, and overlays) is the strongest esthetic porcelain available–by far. Remember, you still must brush and floss your teeth as always, because even eMax porcelain cannot protect you from gum disease or cavities.

Schedule an appointment

Dr. Levey welcomes new patients from many Westchester County communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office at (914) 303-6884 or use our convenient online request form and we will contact you shortly.

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