Tag Archives: insurance

Hooking and Scaling: The Tale of Modern Torture

The thing to remember about dentists can best be summed up in the words of Bill Cosby: “Dentists tell you not to pick at your teeth with any sharp metal objects. Then, you sit in their chair and the first thing they grab is an iron hook.” I recently spent four mornings sitting in a dentist’s chair and I have had several hooks picking at my teeth under the guise of good dental heath. To say this was not a pleasant experience is like saying the biblical 40-day flood was a light, spring shower.

Like most people, my mother admonished me to always brush my teeth while I was growing up and like most people, I let those admonishments fall on deaf ears until fresh breath became important to me in my teen years. It is worth noting that girls seem to have a dental hygiene preference when deciding who to kiss. I now ensure I brush everyday with my Colgate Spinbrush and have done so for decades. I recall a dentist once commenting how strong my teeth were when I was younger. In fact, the only dental work I ever had was after I smashed a tooth that necessitated a root canal and a post and crown.

About ten years ago, I went to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning, since it had been several years since my last visit and the hygienist refused to clean my teeth until I had a “scaling” performed. For the uninitiated, a scaling is where they attack the teeth and gums with that iron hook, scraping a concrete-like substance called tartar off the enamel. This substance provides a growth environment for tooth decay and forms in areas typically missed by brushing alone. Unfortunately, my insurance would not pay for the scaling procedure and it would have cost more than $200, which, at the time, was more than I had. I also figured if the insurance wouldn’t cover it, it must not be too important, because clearly the insurance company had my best interests in mind. I went to two more dentists and was told the same thing. They would not clean my teeth without my first agreeing to the scaling. Sounded like a racket to me, so I increased the time I spent brushing to compensate. Because nylon bristles are clearly every bit as effective as metal hooks at scraping concrete off teeth.

I broke a tooth recently and needed a crown, so I went back to the dentist to have it done and the hygienist once again recommended the scaling. When I said my insurance won’t cover it, I was informed that now they do. So I did. During the exam, it was also discovered that I had several cavities that needed attention. So, what I expected to be two visits—one for the impression and temporary crown and one for the permanent crown—became four visits. They don’t like to do the entire scaling in one sitting (and I agree with them on this) so I had to make several visits.

For about four hours per visit, I reclined in the admittedly not-uncomfortable chair while the elasticity of my jaw muscles was sorely tested and I regularly fought with the suction tube in order not to drown. All the while, a procession of metal hooks traumatized my over-stretched mouth accompanied by two different drills, a couple of needles, and a glowing LED light wand. This, I presume, was a light saber to get the tartar the hooks couldn’t coax off my teeth. Fortunately, the anesthetic did its job and I felt no excruciating pain, though the sensation of that hook scraping along the gum line was akin to fingernails on a chalkboard and the feeling of the drill vibrating through my jaw was worse than the aftermath of a right hook. Lest I forget to mention the worst part, it was most difficult to remain still while the dentist rammed a foot-long needle through my skull into the chair behind me and left it there for a year while I tried to remember how to breathe. Then she slowly squeezed fire through that needle into my mouth. Fortunately, the Marcane worked fairly quickly and I felt my cheeks and tongue grow to five times their normal size as the nerves became deadened.

I found out that the anesthetic they use lasts four hours. I had to endure four days with an anesthetized mouth for four hours each day. I also found that during those four hours, talking becomes problematic and eating becomes dangerous. You never realize just how much your tongue moves when you eat until it doesn’t. My tongue now has battle scars from lunch.

It was great relief when I drove away after the final scaling and cavity filling visit, knowing I shouldn’t have to repeat that process for some time. The only thing that remained to be done is to attach the permanent crown when it comes in. Then, during a trek to Dallas this week, one of my brand new fillings decided to vacate its post, leaving an annoying hole in my rear molar. This means another trip to the dentist’s chair and another battle with the iron hook. At least it won’t involve scraping tartar this time, though I might wait until dinnertime before I try to eat anything.

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Pitching the Vote

As we head into the big election week for the congressional midterms, the media is all aflutter trying to predict the outcome well in advance of actual voting. This is ostensibly in keeping with a trend of trying to be the first media outlet to accurately announce the winners. I think it is more than that, however. I believe that the media—ever so left leaning—is trying to use the cover of prognostication to actually effect the election results.

It is human nature to want to be on the winning side in any contest. No one wishes to be associated with a losing team, or losing effort, and those who find themselves in this unenviable position often try to distance themselves from the team to avoid embarrassment. If a candidate is predicted to win, this prediction may actually swing undecided voters to support the candidate based on their chances of winning, rather than voting for a candidate that more closely aligns with the voter’s ideology.  No one wants to vote for the losing side.

Look for numerous ads paid for by campaigns and political action committees designed to sway voters, but also, be on the lookout for articles run in newspapers, magazines and on TV that ostensibly are trying to cover the race, but are actually casting one side or another in a negative light—even if it is only saying something banal such as “this campaign is struggling with funding” or “this campaign is x number of points down in polls.” Those supposed news stories are nothing more than attempts to get voters to vote against those campaigns by painting them as losing propositions.

Also, look for stories that tout as successes that which has previously been panned as failure. An article on Yahoo from Business Insider this morning praised the successes of Obama Care even though it is pretty much recognized as an abysmal failure by both parties. The article says that it is a success because more people have insurance than had it before. It doesn’t mention any of the controversial issues that have arisen from the measure.

The most egregious issue with campaign ads are the blatant lies and obfuscations that campaigns issue during the elections. One candidate has taken an opponent’s words on abortion out of context to make it appear as if he supports rape. Ridiculous. Another ad for another candidate tries to intimate that the opponent would be a bad representative because he made millions as an insurance salesman. I’m sorry, but I think a person who earns millions of dollars in their job is a success and would probably make a pretty good representative. If he were running in my district, I’d vote for him.

People have been calling for campaign reforms for decades. Unfortunately, this will never happen. The first amendment provides for free speech and, aside from some case law that prohibits out-and-out lying, a candidate can say pretty much whatever they want in an advertisement and can buy as much air time as they can afford. What this means for you and me is that we get deluged in political advertising from TV, radio, internet, mail, email, and even phone calls from all directions until election day filled with some of the most inflammatory statements of dubious veracity ever imagined.

I would love to recommend a law prohibiting such commercials, but again, it is provided in the first amendment and I am an unrepentant supporter of the constitution and the bill of rights. The only way to combat this onslaught of lies is through education. Research the candidates and find out through their voting record what is fact and what is fiction. Caveat emptor applies to the electorate. Do not blindly accept the advertisements of political candidates any more than you would blindly accept a salesman’s pitch. But also, do not listen to the news media telling you who will win. You determine who will win only when you vote.

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Filed under Media, Politics, Society

Someone Call For A Doctor?

The time is coming when getting health care will be a simple and inexpensive matter. No matter your illness, you will find the proper treatment, with affordable care and the finest doctors. All you have to do is sign off on this new plan put forward in congress. It is so simple, how can anyone disagree with it?

Well, for starters, there is an old adage: you can’t get something for nothing. There is another one that goes along the idea of “you get what you pay for,” but you get the gist. Healthcare is not an inexpensive proposition. In fact, it is one of the costliest expenses anyone can face. Child birth for example costs in excess of $6000 just for the hospital bill alone. This doesn’t include the sundry items that go along with it or the cost for complications with the delivery. A C-section can double that charge. Doctors charge for their time as well. Doctors earn on average anywhere from $200,000 to $700,000 a year depending on their specialty and expertise.

Do they deserve it? That is a blog for another time, but the short answer is yes. You go through eight or more years of college and then work almost 24 hours a day as an intern while learning your job and see how much you charge for your time. But they do not always get what they earn. Insurance companies force doctors to accept less than the amount they bill. It is like the Wal-Mart mentality. Buy in bulk and you can name your price. Insurance companies have thousands of clients that need care. If the doctor wants these patients, they have to accept a smaller amount per patient in order to get the volume.

This is where insurance companies get their power. We hire them to pay our medical bills for us. They negotiate a rate that is much more affordable than we would otherwise have to pay. But the trick is that they don’t actually pay a whole lot when you average it out over their client list. Only 40 percent of us will visit a hospital or ER this year, yet we all pay our insurance premiums. Some of us go a lifetime never stepping foot in a health care facility. This is money the insurance company banks. It is straight profit. They don’t actually want anyone to go to the hospital so they can bank more premiums without having to actually pay a medical bill. They also deny coverage whenever they can to maximize their profit. This is where the problem begins. They are a business after all, and businesses exist to make money.

People hate being told “no” to medical care. Seeing someone ill or dying is a tragedy that no one wants to bear and it is made worse when they do not have medical coverage. Very few people can afford medical care on their own. Why? See paragraph one. Why is it so expensive? Education is not cheap, nor is research and development of procedures, equipment and medicine. Yet society is under the impression that everyone is entitled to medical care, no matter if they can pay for it. It is like they think it is a basic human right.

Nothing is farther from the truth. Medical care is expensive and rightfully so. Before the advent of modern medicine, people died by the thousands from things we today cure with a pill. A doctor is a businessman who performs a service. He or she deserves some compensation for their service. Should we expect that they render their service with no pay? Should we expect a plumber to fix our pipes when we cannot afford to pay them? Of course not. If we think the plumber charges too much, we can shop around for a cheaper one. You can do the same with your doctor. It’s economics. Sure it is tragic when someone dies, but there is no government regulation or law guaranteeing a stop to death. Nor is there a guarantee to good healthcare. Nowhere in the constitution does it say all citizens are entitled to health care.

The liberals think otherwise. They are under the impression that the first order of business is ensuring that everyone has medical coverage. This seems like a good idea on the surface. Sickness and death are bad things and we as a society should do what we can to mitigate bad things. But since health care is so expensive, how do we provide care to those with no money? Who shall pay for it? You? Me? That is the root of the debate. Since liberals think that the government coffers are filled with an endless supply of money, they love the idea of putting health care on the government dole. Our tax dollars will pay for every person to have health care, no matter that in reality less than 17% of US citizens are uninsured or underinsured. That 17% will drive our taxes up and raise the cost of healthcare for everyone.

What can the government do? Force doctors to charge less? That will drive people out of the medical profession. No one will want to make the investment in education if they are looking at a federally mandated capped income. Those who do become doctors will be the equivalent of the lowest bidders for a contract; probably not the best people to be poking around inside you. How about if the government just monitors the health care plan? That would be worse than an HMO. The federal government would be denying treatments left and right and letting people wither and die while they or their family file appeals.

Should everyone have access to health care? Sure. Should someone pay for health care? Of course. More than 83% of us have health insurance the majority of which is paid for in most cases by our employers. Simple idea that: want insurance—get a job. No job? No insurance. Sad situation to be in to be sure, but just because you get laid off or fired doesn’t mean that everyone else should pay for your health care. Consider it motivation to get a new job, or a better job.

Is the health care system in our country perfect? Far from it. Does it need reform? Sure, why not; let’s make some changes. Health care should be a simple and inexpensive matter. No matter your illness, you should expect the proper treatment, with affordable care and the finest doctors…in a perfect world. We cannot just say that the federal government is the best entity to manage our health care and be done with it. Medicine is and should remain a private business. This ensures that doctors and patients can continue to expect privacy in their dealings and that the doctors can make their assessments and diagnosis and treatment plans without government interference. Government has no business in the treatment room. Remember, this is the same government that pays $700 for a toilet seat. They cannot make our healthcare system work any better than it is now. They will probably make it worse.

This matter is before congress now. Many senators and representatives have spoken out against this bill, but the proponents still insist on hammering it home to get it passed before Christmas. In my next blog, I will discuss these flip floppers. Stay tuned.

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