What dentist would do such a thing? - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, October 14, 2019
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What dentist would do such a thing?

We are led to believe by the mainstream media that a Chugiak man had all his teeth pulled by his dentist, only to find that Medicaid no longer covers dentistry for able-bodied adults of working age.

Now the man is toothless. The government money ran out mid-stream.

The media slipped into the “It’s Dunleavy’s fault” mode. They did not ask the questions:

  • Does the dentist have no responsibility to make this patient whole?
  • Did the man’s dentist not know that dental coverage was ending?
  • What kind of dentist would pull a man’s teeth and not finish the job, regardless?
  • Why didn’t the dentist get pre-approval not only for the tooth extraction, but for the dentures, as dentists do when completing a care plan for patients. Pre-approval would mean the dentist would get paid even if the program funding ended.

This was a story made for a political hit job. For lack of $2,000 in Medicaid, a man goes toothless.

The story is reminiscent of the case that brought down Judge Michael Corey at the polls — the crime committed by Justin Schneider, who waylaid a woman, choked her, ejaculated on her, and received no significant jail time because of the lenient provisions of SB 91. The public was enraged and took it out on the judge, when it was really the prosecution team that failed to vigorously pursue penalties it had available. The media was complicit in the demise of Judge Corey’s judicial career.

In the dental extraction case, we’ll not know what the dentist was thinking; the man’s medical records are his private business. All we know is that the man needed dentures, and the dentist pulled all of his teeth, and abandoned him once the funding ran out. It’s similar to a surgeon opening up a patient only to walk away and let the patient bleed out.

Dentistry in Alaska is a lucrative profession. Alaska dentists charge so much that many Alaskans fly south for their dental work, finding that even with the cost of a airline ticket, they will come out ahead.

For the middle class who do not work for the the government, dental insurance is out of reach, and so they postpone their preventative care. But for those who are 138 percent of the poverty level, Alaska has picked up the tab, until now.

It’s a business; Alaskans get that. But it’s also a medical profession and there are professional standards of conduct.

Options are available:

  • The dentist could finish the work he or she started, even if it means putting the patient on a payment plan. That would be the charitable, responsible thing to do. It would also be smart to do it before the dentist’s name becomes part of the story, which it should have been from the beginning.
  • The Legislature could add $1 million to cover these Alaskans that are mid-procedure, so that the dentists can get paid.
  • The man himself could file a complaint with the American Dental Association that his dentist did not use prudent judgment when he pulled out his remaining teeth just days before a well-publicized veto of the program that was paying for his care.

But the narrative of a toothless man is delicious fodder for the media, which has held the government responsible for so a problem that never needed to happen.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Why should he get 100% free dental. I have a very good dental plan and am double covered but still had to pay 50% of my dental bridge.

    • We have similar. We pay $2100.00 a month in premiums for our insurance that thankfully does include dental and even some vision. We are self employed. Alaskans not employed by government, or that are unemployed but insured by government, have very few options and all are expensive.

    • WHERE IS OBAMACARE WHEN LEGAL AMERICANS NEED IT?

      • Paying for illegal aliens. You can’t have both.

    • The patient should know what his own dental plan covers and when said coverage begins and ends. To compare a person getting extractions without dentures to a surgeon letting a patient bleed out is ludicrous. The patient on the table will die. The patient with no dentures will not. Likely, if the teeth needed to be extracted, it *improved* his health to be “toothless”, as you report

  • Wow. Perhaps an example of the growing trend of people – that really don’t care about people but do care about money – drawn into lucrative high income medical professions. Gone are the days of doctors treating their patients like family, building long relationship and knowing about them. I was fortunate to grow up with a family physician who not only delivered both my sister and I but ushered our health through our growing up years. That was though before the era of health insurance. Now we are a number. With a dollar sign in front of it. And the health of our overall population has plummeted, as treating illness is far bigger business than prevention.

    Wondering now how much of this media fodder story is even true. Who is the dentist? He/she would be held to standards of practice by the dental association. Is there even allowance in the required standards of dentistry for dropping a patient mid agreed upon treatment? And yes I too wonder about the apparent ‘lack’ of preauthorization. Something seems very fishy.

  • Where is this mainstream media story located? I’d like to read the slant. Time to expose the dentist to give him a fair shake. His side of this story is the missing link right now.

    • Or her – we don’t know ….

      • ADN

  • Once upon a time in America, before Government got in the business of Charity; Doctors (including Dentists) knew a significant portion of their business was to provide Charity Care to the poorer members of the community they served.

  • Now, it’s Dentists up against the wall? This site is developing all the class envy of a Che Geuvara fan club.

  • Bullshit …
    #1. There is no pre-auth for extractions.. #2 Medicaid does not allow preauths for new fiscal year until that year!
    #3 it is not the dentist responsibility that the patient no longer has insurance … just like if he worked for someone and he quit or got fired he looses his insurance. It’s the patient responsibility. #4 patient is whole.. he can live without teeth.. many do .. that’s a luxury item..
    God forbid we hold the person responsible for himself!

  • Crazy how one story on ADN shows that one man is left without dental coverage (after the Governor’s Vetoes) while a second story shows that another man is awarded a $100,000 dollar “no bid” contract to study another “bridge to nowhere”? Seem Fair?
    “Empathy, and its close cousin compassion, can be reflected in public policy that shows concern for fellow humans. In response to the economic crisis of the 1930s, for example, America embraced the New Deal…
    Contrast this to the mood in America today, where almost all discourse is uncivil, whether online, on cable television or on the debate stage, and the utter lack of empathy becomes apparent. Nobody cares to calm down, to consider what it’s like to walk in the other person’s shoes, to entertain the notion that others may feel the way they do for reasons that are understandable and valid.”

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201603/beware-americas-shocking-loss-empathy

  • I will put in a plug for Solstice Denistry whose staff was kind enough to allow me to make monthly payments after I recieved TWO root canals but saved all my teeth when I had a severe gum infection caused by dying nerve roots. I was a 68 year old retiree with no dental insurance and no extra money for unexpected dental emergencies.But I still have all my teeth and am committed to taking them ALL to the grave with me.

    • They are my dentists as well. They have bent over backwards to make sure my family and I can have the necessary dental care we need. Having said that, we do have dental insurance. I’m not sure about everyone else’s employers, but my husband’s employer’s plan on dental and vision is inexpensive enough that we can get minimal insurance. It’s 100% preventative, 80% standard and 50% major. I only get $1500 a year covered, so I have to make the work count, but both the office in Anchorage and now the one in Wasilla work very hard to help us out. Money isn’t their main concern. Our teeth are.

      Unfortunately, I have no health care. Hubby’s employer would charge us $400 a month for that. (It used to be $1000.)

      Also, I could never see Solstice pulling all this man’s teeth without trying to work out getting him some teeth.

  • Why were his teeth removed, perhaps significant infection and pain? Dental infection and painful teeth and gums are the usual reason teeth are removed. Dental infection can be deadly. The timing for the removal may be totally due to the need to remove significant infection and relieve pain and not due to any prosthetic or financial considerations. Yes, I am a retired dentist.

  • False teeth! C’mon. Put em in. Take em out. Brush em in the palm of your hand. New choppers are the ticket!

  • Just within the last couple of days I had an emergency Root Canal procedure by a visiting oral surgeon from Juneau. That he squeezed me in and with a cancellation, operated. Very professional, emphatic to my pain. In this case. my dental plan had been eviscerated by prior dental demands for the year. This incident became a out of pocket expense. I found the charge well within reason for the talent and outcome.
    Yes, I could go to Mexico as several of my “Snow birds” do for very reasonable charges for similar needs and I applaud their ability to do so.
    In my case, that is not going to be an option. nor do I desire to travel great distance for service I can receive locally (visiting Doctors included) from practitioners who have invested time and funds to obtain the level of professionalism required to service patients while living in our similar high cost of everything society of Southern Southeast Alaska

  • If you lose an arm from a car accident while driving drunk, is the hospital responsible for giving you a prosthetic for free if insurance doesn’t cover it?

    Its not too uncommon for dentists to let the guns heal for a couple months before they make the dentures. If the patient can’t afford dentures then that’s their problem.

    You are writing a topic about dental insurance but it is apparent that you don’t know much about the topic. Or about dentistry.

  • Former Judge Michael Core wyas thrown out for showing zero empathy for the victim and coddling the criminal.
    He could have held a ten minute status hearing to find out what Grannick actually did to find the victim but Corey couldn’t be bothered.
    Turns out, they lied about trying to contact her and her refusal to cooperate.
    Good riddance to a judge who didn’t give a damn. A few more need to go in 2020.

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